The reproductive choices of eavesdropping female black-capped chickadees, Poecile atricapillus
In animals where males engage in signalling interactions, females might evaluate male–male contests to inform their reproductive choices. We used interactive playback to engage territorial male black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) of known dominance status in countersinging contests with an aggressive or submissive opponent. Previous analysis of these data showed that high-ranking males who received aggressive playback were more likely to be cuckolded. Here we describe the particular reproductive decisions of females whose partners received aggressive versus submissive playback. The proportion of extra-pair young per brood was higher for females paired to high-ranking males that received aggressive playback compared to submissive playback, and similar to levels in broods of females paired to low-ranking males. We found no strong predictors of whether high-ranking subjects lost paternity following aggressive playback. Females usually preferred extra-pair sires with high dominance status. When females had extra-pair fertilizations with low-ranking males, females chose males who had received submissive playback. We conclude that females mated to aggressive-playback, high-ranking males pursued mixed mating strategies similar to those of females mated to low-ranking males. Our results support the idea that male performance in song contests may influence multiple aspects of female reproductive choices.
KeywordsMale Song Reproductive Choice Song Contest High Rank Score Winter Flock
We thank R. DeBruyn, A. MacDougall, D. Aiama, A. Boon, P. Christie, C. Cliffe, L. Colgan, M. Cunningham, S. Doucet, J. Hodson, B. Meigs, S. Ramsay, and N. Vreeswyck for field and lab assistance, S. Doucet for comments on the manuscript, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Ornithologists’ Union, the Animal Behavior Society, the Association of Field Ornithologists, and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists for funding. This experiment complies with the laws of Canada.
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