Lek Mating Systems

As mentioned in my last post, leks are a type of mating system that kakapos exhibit, that isn’t limited to birds. Copadichromis eucinostomus [a type of fish], hammerhead bats, etc. exhibit lekking too. It involves male-male competition for status and the right to mate with females. There are no resources at stake for the male to protect so the female’s decision is based heavily on the male’s display techniques and the territory on which he displays. Because of this, one male is usually getting a vast majority of the mating opportunities. Since the male is so busy courting as many females as possible, the female must care for her own offspring. To make her load slightly easier, lekking birds usually have precocial young or are frugivorous or nectivorous.

There are also different kinds of leks:

Classical Leks – individuals gather in sight of each other to compete. The video below shows the Greater Sage Grouse who has a very interesting mating display (one of my favorites):

Exploded Leks – males are dispersed. The Kakapo is a great example using its fantastic “boom” noise:

– Cooperative Leks – males are usually closely related. The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock uses an element of synchrony during display:

Manakins are also a great example of a cooperative lek with a pretty fancy display:

Another lekking bird (not sure which type of lek) is the Screaming Piha. At the Baltimore Aquarium one day, for a friend’s niece’s birthday, we were wandering around when we heard the call featured in the video below. Super attractive if you’re a female Screaming Piha, eh?

:: Some of the information included is from Dr. Hawley’s Ornithology class at Virginia Tech ::


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