Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 91–95 | Cite as

Multiple maternity and paternity in single broods of apparently monogamous eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis)

  • P. A. Gowaty
  • A. A. Karlin


In an effort to assess genealogical relationships between breeding adults and their putative offspring, we collected and analyzed blood from 257 wild, uniquely color-banded eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis). Electrophoretic analysis of the protein products of two loci, esterase-2 (EST-2) and nucleoside phosphorylase (NSP), revealed that at least 5% of adult males and 15% of adult females were caring for at least one offspring not their own. Multiple parentage was evident in 9% of all broods sampled. Twenty-five percent of complete families sampled evidenced multiple parentage. Biparental care of nestlings by adult eastern bluebirds is not necessarily a reflection of the genetic kinship between putative parents and their offspring. The consort pattern among eastern bluebirds does not completely correlate with the pattern of gametic contributions, leading to a reconsideration of their mating system as possibly polygamous. This is among the first unambiguous observations of multiple patenity in a wild bird population, and of multiple maternity in a wild passerine.


Nucleoside Adult Female Mating System Phosphorylase Wild Bird 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. A. Gowaty
    • 1
  • A. A. Karlin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Tall Timbers Research StationTallahasseeUSA

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