Social and ecological factors affecting paternity allocation in American robins with overlapping broods

Karen M.C. Rowe, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Factors that affect extra-pair mating in birds are likely to vary across the breeding season. Changing densities of active nests may alter the opportunities for extra-pair mating, and parental duties may alter a male's opportunity to guard his mate from extra-pair mating. The latter affects species with multiple broods, where males care for fledglings from first nests while females initiate second nests. We studied a population of multi-brooded American robins (Turdus migratorius) to assess how seasonal changes in nesting density and changes in mate-guarding opportunity influenced paternity patterns over successive breeding attempts. Extra-pair paternity (EPP) occurred in 71.9% of broods and accounted for 48.1% of young. High nesting densities in the study population may explain the high overall rate of EPP, but seasonal variation in breeding density did not explain patterns of EPP among nests. Contrary to the predictions of the mate-guarding hypothesis, EPP did not increase in the second nests that followed successful first nests, and the percentage of extra-pair young in second nests did not decline as the overlap between successive nests increased. The fact that EPP was actually lower when the interval between clutches was shorter suggests that the sooner the males can assume sole care of first broods and allow their mates to renest (indicative of superior paternal quality), the more paternity they realize in the next nest. These results suggest that mate-guarding opportunity does not influence paternity in this population of American robins and that female robins may allocate paternity based on their assessment of male parental performance at first nests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1283-1291
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Breeding density
  • Extra-pair paternity
  • Interclutch interval
  • Mate guarding
  • Turdus migratorius

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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