Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 149–156 | Cite as

Copulation behavior and paternity in the chaffinch

  • B. C. Sheldon
  • T. Burke


We investigated two aspects of sperm competition in a wild population of chaffinches Fringilla coelebs: copulation behavior and genetic parentage determined by DNA fingerprinting. Pairs copulated at a high rate before laying, peaking at 4.4 copulation attempts per hour on day −3 relative to laying, with an average of 207 copulation attempts (83 behaviorally successful) per clutch. Extra-pair copulation attempts (n = 20) made up 7.8% of all copulation attempts that females were involved in. The rate at which pairs copulated was lower during egg-laying, but there was no evidence that this was due to the male of the pair timing copulations to coincide with an ‘insemination window’; it was more likely due to the fact that females solicited copulations at a lower rate. Both sexes solicited copulations but males solicited mainly extra-pair copulations. DNA fingerprinting showed that 17.0% of chicks (n = 47) in 23% of broods (n = 13) were fathered by a male other than the one paired to their mother. There was no evidence of intraspecific brood parasitism. In three cases where we were able to identify the father of extra-pair offspring it proved to be a neighboring male.

Key words

Copulation behavior DNA fingerprinting Fringilla coelebs Paternity Sperm competition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. C. Sheldon
    • 1
  • T. Burke
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesThe University of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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