Breeding synchrony and paternity in the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)
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The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) is a socially monogamous passerine which usually breeds in colonies where extra-pair copulations are frequent. Males intensively guard their mates during the female fertile period. Since males are more likely to be available for extra-pair copulations when their mate is not fertile, synchrony in timing of breeding may affect paternity of individual males. In this study, we analysed the change in mate-guarding rate by males in relation to the fertility condition of the female, and the relationships between breeding synchrony and density with paternity in first broods of 52 male barn swallows. Paternity (proportion of nestlings fathered in own brood) was assessed by typing of three highly polymorphic microsatellite loci. Mate guarding by males peaked during the fertile period of their mates. Paternity increased as breeding synchrony in the colony increased. Paternity of barn swallows is positively associated with the degree of exaggeration of male tail ornaments. The relationship between male ornamentation and paternity was partly mediated by an effect of ornament size on breeding synchrony. We suggest that females might delay breeding with low-quality males to enhance their opportunities for being fertilised by high-quality extra-pair males.
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