In birds, males and females may benefit by choosing mates based on morphological characteristics correlated with their ability to provide parental care. Our objective was to examine possible relationships between morphological characteristics and the provisioning behavior of male and female Yellow-breasted Chats (Icteria virens). No differences were found in the provisioning behavior of male and female Yellow-breasted Chats. Adult chats provisioned nestlings at higher rates and delivered more biomass at first nests than during later nesting attempts. This indicates that, later in the breeding season, nestling chats may require less energy, perhaps because warmer temperatures lower thermoregulatory costs. No correlations, either positive or negative, between chat morphological characteristics (mass, eye stripe length, tail length, wing chord, tarsus length, and plumage color) and provisioning behavior were noted. Thus, these results do not provide support for either the honest advertisement hypothesis (that predicts a positive relationship between quality and parental care) or the differential allocation hypothesis (that predicts a negative relationship). If mate choice among chats is based on future parental care, the absence of such correlations suggests that characteristics other than those examined in this study may be used by chats. Alternatively, chats may not base mate choice decisions on future parental care, but rather on other features such as territory quality.
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Vol. 76 • No. 3