Breeding in the monsoon: semi-annual reproduction in the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis)

Jan Komdeur, Serge Daan

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the absence of pronounced changes in day length, there is considerable climatological seasonality in the tropics. Its expression can be complex like in the monsoon climate of the Indian Ocean Islands. The land mass distribution on both sides of the equator leads to seasonal changes in prevailing wind direction and seasonal patterns in food supply, which are distinct between different coasts. Here we assess that territory quality of the Seychelles warbler, endemic to the small island of Cousin peaks during the South East monsoon (April to September) in most of the island. The Southeastern wind-exposed side is exceptional by being generally poor and having slightly increased food supply in the opposite season (NW monsoon; October to March). In response, the warblers in most territories breed primarily during the SE season, while on the SE shores they tend to breed in both seasons. The result is a semi-annual periodicity in breeding. Individual pairs can breed in 6 months intervals. In the poorer territories on the SE shore most of them indeed do this, while in the richer central habitats most pairs restrict themselves to the best (SE) season. The frequency of breeding thereby increases with territory quality in the SE season, and decreases with quality in the NW season. Withholding from breeding in the NW season despite the high food supply may have long-term advantages for the birds occupying the richer habitat. Such flexible adjustment of seasonality to local circumstances requires not only an immediate response mechanism but also access to accurate information about time of year. The subtle sensitivity of tropical songbirds to photoperiod, demonstrated so convincingly by Eberhard Gwinner (Biological rhythms, Hokkaido University Press, Sapporo, pp19-40, 2005), may well have profound adaptive meaning in taking temporally optimized reproductive decisions in response to both food and time of year.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-313
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2005


  • neotropical birds
  • seasonal breeding
  • trophical photoperiod
  • avian reproduction
  • Seychelles warbler

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