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Territorial individuals often respond less aggressively to intrusions by their neighbours than to intrusions by unfamiliar individuals. This commonly observed strategy, the dear-enemy phenomenon, is thought to minimise the costs associated with territory defence. This study determined whether an insular population of territory-holding buff-banded rails (Gallirallus philippensis) exhibits dear-enemy relationships and whether males and females differ in their responses to neighbours and non-neighbours. Playback techniques were used to examine and compare the vocalisations and movements of focal individuals in response to the territorial advertisement calls of their neighbours and of unfamiliar individuals (non-neighbours). Results showed that focal birds did not respond differently to the calls of neighbours and non-neighbours; thus, no evidence for the dear-enemy phenomenon was found in this species. We suggest that this result is due to the significant threats posed by neighbours to territory owners in this territorial system, in addition to a high level of territorial instability in the population. Males and females were shown to differ qualitatively in their general territorial response to intruders but not in their relative responses to neighbours and non-neighbours, suggesting that the relative threats posed by neighbours and non-neighbours do not differ between the sexes.

Original publication




Journal article


Australian Journal of Zoology

Publication Date





369 - 378