Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, 62:1981

First online:

Do male plumage and song characteristics influence female off-territory forays and paternity in the hooded warbler?

  • Ioana ChiverAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, York University Email author 
  • , Bridget J. M. StutchburyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, York University
  • , Eugene S. MortonAffiliated withHemlock Hill Field Station

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Extra-pair fertilizations are common in many socially monogamous species, and paternity studies have indicated that females may use male vocal performance and plumage ornaments as cues to assess male quality. Female off-territory forays may represent a key component of female choice and male extra-pair mating success, and female foray behaviour is expected to be strongly influenced by indictors of male quality. In this study, we examined how male song and ornamentation affect how often females left their territories, which males they visited and extra-pair paternity in a socially monogamous passerine, the hooded warbler (Wilsonia citrina). We radiotracked 17 females during the fertile period and quantified male vocal performance (song output and rate) and plumage characteristics (size of the black melanin hood and colour of the black hood, yellow cheeks and breast areas). We obtained blood samples and determined paternity at 35 nests including those of 14 females that we radiotracked. Eleven (65%) of the 17 females forayed off-territory, whilst fertile and female foray rate was positively correlated with the number of extra-pair young in the nest. Females that left their territories more frequently were paired with males that sang at a low rate. In addition, extra-pair mates had higher song rates than the social mates they cuckolded (5.3 songs/min vs. 4.4 songs/min). Female off-territory forays or extra-pair paternity were not significantly related to male plumage characteristics. Our results indicate that a high song rate influences both the foray behaviour of a male’s social mate and the likelihood that he will sire extra-pair offspring with neighbouring females.


Extra-pair fertilisation Sexual selection Mate choice Song Plumage Ornaments Extra-territorial forays