Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 733–742 | Cite as

Individual and environmental determinants of reproductive success in male tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

  • Andréanne Lessard
  • Audrey Bourret
  • Marc Bélisle
  • Fanie Pelletier
  • Dany Garant
Original Paper


Evaluating the contribution of individual and environmental determinants of reproductive success is essential to improve our understanding of sexual selection. In socially monogamous bird species with high rates of extrapair paternity, traits or environmental contexts affecting the number of within-pair young (WPY) produced by males can differ from those affecting the number of extrapair young fathered (EPY). Here, we use a 4-year dataset collected in contrasted environments to assess the factors affecting male reproductive success in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), a species showing high levels of extrapair paternity. Our analyses revealed that the number of WPY was higher under better environmental conditions, while the number of EPY was mainly related to male characteristics. Males nesting in more intensive agricultural areas had fewer WPY produced and a lower reproductive success. Also, males breeding earlier in the season had more WPY. The presence of parasites reduced males’ reproductive success, mainly by reducing the number of EPY. The influence of male phenotype varied according to population density: Tarsus length variation had a greater effect on reproductive success at low population density than at high density, while wing length was also positively related to the number of EPY, more so at high than at low density. Altogether, our results suggest a complex interplay between individual and environmental determinants of reproductive success and imply that sexual selection dynamics varies depending on environmental contexts.


Birds Environmental variability Individual heterogeneity Paternity assignment Reproductive success Sexual selection 



We thank the 40 farm owners who provided access to their lands. We also wish to thank all graduate students and field and laboratory assistants who have contributed in gathering data in our system over the years. We also thank Melissa Hughes and two anonymous reviewers for the comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) discovery grants to D.G., M.B., and F.P., by a strategic project research grant to D.G. and M.B. and by the Canada Research Chair program to F.P. and M.B.. A.B. was supported by a postgraduate NSERC scholarship.

Ethical standards

Animals were captured and handled in compliance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care, under the approval of the Université de Sherbrooke Animal Ethics Committee (protocol number: DG2010-01-Université de Sherbrooke).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

265_2014_1686_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (326 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 325 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andréanne Lessard
    • 1
  • Audrey Bourret
    • 1
  • Marc Bélisle
    • 1
  • Fanie Pelletier
    • 1
  • Dany Garant
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de biologieUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada

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