Birder's Eye View

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spotted Sandpiper follow up

"How is it possible for birds to be so infinitely fascinating?"

While studying for my environmental biology exam yesterday, I came across some notes I had forgotten about, pertaining to the Spotted Sandpiper.

In class we had been talking about reproduction -- monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, etc. The first two mating systems are fairly common, but polyandry (female choosing multiple mates) is much rarer.

As an example of polyandry in the wild, the professor talked about the Spotted Sandpiper.

The way it works is the female lays a clutch of eggs with a male, then leaves him and lays another clutch with another male, and so on and so forth. The system is certainly out of the ordinary, but it has advantages to both sexes.

For the males, there is less competition, he has more control over incubation of eggs, and he can be sure that his genes are being passed on in the chicks that hatch.

For the female, she can have lots of young with relatively little effort, and there will be a significant amount of genetic diversity in her chicks (which is always great from a biological standpoint).

So, although the bird itself doesn't look that atypical, its story is nothing short of remarkable if you ask me.

Well, I just had to share that little scientific piece of trivia.

Happy birding!


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