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Master's Research: Black Catbird

MS Thesis: Social ecology and mating system of the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris)

Social
Ecology

The Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) is a mockingbird relative (Mimidae) endemic to the Yucatán Peninsula. This catbird species is a rare to common (and occasionally locally abundant) breeding resident on the mainland but also inhabits numerous islands along the coast. In collaboration with a master's student (Blanca Roldán Clarà) at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Chetumal, I studied the catbird's breeding biology, much of which remained poorly known prior to our work. 

Recent observations of groups of three or more birds interacting in what looked like groups suggested the possibility of cooperative breeding, a behavior documented or inferred for at least seven other mimid species, including the famous Galápagos mockingirds (Mimus spp.). My original objective was to look for the presence/absence of catbird helpers-at-the-nest and utilize a mainland-island comparative study (i.e., a natural experiment paradigm) to assess the influence of population density on recruitment of helpers.

More information to come...


Mating System

Although most bird species are socially monogamous, social bonds may belie genetic patterns of paternity. Ornithologists now know that extra-pair paternity (EPP), when a male other than the social mate sires one or more offspring in a brood, is common among socially monogamous species. Yet while EPP is well established as a common feature of birds breeding in temperate zones, comparatively fewer studies of birds breeding in the tropics are available for comparison. While conducting my study of Black Catbird social behavior, I also collected paternity data with the goal of addressing the following questions: (1) Does Black Catbird exhibit EPP, and, if yes, (2) What factors influence the prevalence of EPP in the species?

More information to come...



Black Catbird Nest Survival

In collaboration on a project spearheaded by Blanca Roldán Clarà (now a PhD student at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California), we analyzed various factors influencing nest survival in the Black Catbird. Because this species breeds under a variety of ecological conditions (e.g., different densities, different levels of habitat disturbance), we tested various hypotheses regarding factors influencing this breeding biology parameter. We also documented much higher nest survival and reproductive success on Cozumel in contrast to our mainland population (all three sites in Sian Ka'an), possibly attributable to the lower diversity of predators on Cozumel, including the absence of grackles in our study site, and despite the presence of an introduced snake (Boa constrictor).


Relevant publication:
Roldán-Clarà, B., J.B. LaPergola, L. Chapa-Vargas, and S. Calmé. 2013. Nest survival in the Neotropical Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris). Journal of Ornithology. 154(2):491-499. DOI: 10.1007/s10336-012-0917-0


Related presentations: (*presenting author(s))

  1. LaPergola, J.B.*, J.E. Martínez Gómez, and R.L. Curry. Mainland monogamy and island infidelity: mating system divergence in the Neotropical Black Catbird? The 14th International Behavioral Ecology Congress, Lund, Sweden. August 2012.
  2. LaPergola, J.B. Social ecology and mating system of the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris). Cooperation and Parental Care Symposium Poster Session, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 21 October 2011. (poster)
  3. LaPergola, J.B. “My friend the Black Catbird.” Hastings Reserve, UC Berkeley, 26 May 2011. (invited talk)
  4. LaPergola, J.B. Island infidelity and mainland monogamy: extra-pair paternity in the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Seminar, 12 April 2011. (invited talk)
  5. LaPergola, J.B.*, J.E. Martínez Gómez, and R.L. Curry. Genetic mating system of the Black Catbird, Melanoptila glabrirostris. 47th Animal Behavior Meeting, July 2010. (poster)
  6. LaPergola, J.B.*, B. Roldán-Clarà, J.E. Martínez-Gómez, and R.L. Curry. Sociality and parental care in the Black Catbird in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Joint Meeting of the Cooper Ornithological Society, American Ornithologists’ Union, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists, 9 February 2010. (talk)
  7. Marina Hipolito, J.G.*, B. Roldán-Clarà, and J.B. LaPergola. Éxito de anidación del maullador negro (Melanoptila glabrirostris) (Passeriformes: Mimidae) en la Reserva de la Biosfera de Sian Ka’an e Isla de Cozumel, Quintana Roo, México, 2009. El IX Congreso para el Estudio y Conservación de las Aves en México (CECAM), 7 October 2009. (talk)
  8. LaPergola, J.B.*, B. Roldán-Clarà, J.E. Martínez Gómez, and R.L. Curry. Breeding biology and spacing patterns of the Black Catbird. 127th Meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union, 14 August 2009. (poster)
  9. Roldán-Clarà, B.*, L. Chapa-Vargas, J.B. LaPergola, and S. Calmé. Nest success of the tropical Black Catbird in the North coast of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, México. 127th Meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union, 14 August 2009. (poster)
  10. Roldán-Clarà, B.*, with J.B. LaPergola*. Ecología reproductiva del ave Melanoptila glabrirostris en Quintana Roo. El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Chetumal, México, 5 August 2009. (invited talk, co-presented)
  11. Roldán-Clarà, B.*, and J.B. LaPergola. Ecología reproductiva de Melanoptila glabrirostris en la duna costera de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Sian Ka’an, Quintana Roo. El Primer Simposium para el Conocimiento de los Recursos Costeros del Sureste de México y la Primera Reunión Mesoamericana para el Conocimiento de los Recursos Costeros, 4 June 2009. (talk)
  12. LaPergola, J.B.*, R.L. Curry, B. Roldán-Clarà, and J.E. Martínez Gómez.  Natural history of the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) in Quintana Roo, México. Meeting of the Lehigh Valley Ecology and Evolution Society, 18 April 2009. (talk)
  13. LaPergola, J.B.*, R.L. Curry, B. Roldán-Clarà, and J.E. Martínez Gómez.  Natural history of the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) in Quintana Roo, México. Joint Meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society and Association of Field Ornithologists, 11 April 2009. (talk)
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