Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 401–408 | Cite as

Mixed reproductive strategy and mate guarding in a semi-colonial passerine, the swallow Hirundo rustica

  • Anders Pape Møller


Both male and female swallows Hirundo rustica have a mixed reproductive strategy (parental care for offspring and extra-pair couplations). Mate guarding protects females from male harassment and male swallows from being cuckolded. Females hide their fertile period by copulating successfully with their mates for an extended period during first clutches. Males guard in the pre-fertile period, when many unpaired males are present. Early breeding swallows guard more than late breeders since more sexual chases of females by non-mate males take place in the early period. Solitarily breeding females experience few chases by strange males; copulation frequency, length of copulation period and mate guarding is adjusted to a lower level than among colonial birds. Male guarding activity is more intense in the fertile than in the pre-fertile period. Guarding reduces success of extra-pair copulation attempts.

Three female swallows each paired and copulated with a single male and later changed to a new male before starting to breed. Extra-pair copulations most often take place between neighbouring swallows in the fertile period of the female. Many old, early breeding males and many young, late breeding females participate in extra-pair couplations. Successful extra-pair copulations peak in the fertile period contrary to success of pair copulations which does not change during the copulation period.


Breeding Female Fertile Period Early Breeding Copulation Attempt Male Harassment 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Pape Møller
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoological Laboratory, Institute of Zoology and ZoophysiologyUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark

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