Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 3, pp 607–620 | Cite as

Multiple ornamentation, female breeding synchrony, and extra-pair mating success of golden whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis)

  • Wouter F. D. van Dongen
  • Raoul A. Mulder
Original Article


Considerable variation exists in rates of extra-pair paternity between species, and across and within populations of the same species. Explanations for this variation include ecological (e.g. breeding synchrony), morphological (e.g. ornamentation), and genetic (e.g. relatedness) factors, but it is rare for studies to simultaneously explore these factors within a single population. This is especially true for highly ornamented species, where mate choice based on ornamentation may be more complex than in less-adorned species. We conducted such a study in a migratory population of the highly ornamented golden whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis). We quantified male genetic reproductive success and related it to a range of factors putatively involved in determining extra-pair mating success. We found no effects of genetic factors (male heterozygosity and relatedness) on extra-pair success, nor of territory size, male age, or incubation effort. Instead, males possessing yellower breast plumage and large song repertoires enjoyed higher reproductive success. Additionally, we found a negative relationship between local breeding synchrony and male extra-pair mating success. This may be a consequence of mate guarding during the female fertile period and an inability of males to simultaneously mate-guard and pursue extra-pair fertilisations. In this species, the opportunity for extra-pair matings appears to vary temporally with an ecological variable (local breeding synchrony), while fine-scale, inter-male differences in mating success may be influenced by individual attributes (male ornamentation). The migratory nature of the study population and its lack of natal philopatry may mean that relatedness and inbreeding avoidance are less important considerations in mate choice.


Breeding synchrony Extra-pair matings Multiple ornamentation Plumage Bird song 



We are very grateful to Larissa Yocom, Saskia van Dongen, Sophie-Allebone Webb, Michelle Simeoni, Kristy van Dongen, Frieda van Dongen, Wouter van Dongen Sr, Ramiarison Robert, Tania Billing, Grainne Maguire, Carly Cook, Lindy and Oliver Eyster, Angela Schneider, and Meah Volkard for their assistance with field work for this project. We thank Ian Gordon for his helpful statistics advice, Staffan Andersson for conducting the carotenoid analysis of the whistler feathers, and an anonymous referee for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was funded by the Holsworth Wildlife Research Fund, the Loftus-Hills Memorial Fund, the Stuart Leslie Bird Research Award, the Linnean Society of NSW, the David Hay Memorial Fund, and the Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne. Birds were captured and blood samples collected under Animal Experimentation and Ethics Register 01011 from the University of Melbourne and permits from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Australia.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Konrad Lorenz Institute for EthologyViennaAustria

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