Humans are commonly concerned with social status, and often cooperate in the presence of others in an attempt to signal their potential as a social or reproductive partner. Whether or not cooperation might signal prestige in nonhuman animals is seldom tested and poorly understood. We investigated whether male chestnut-crowned babblers, Pomatostomus ruficeps, that are unrelated to the breeding female, and hence most likely to benefit from signalling their parenting ability to her, strategically adjust their actual or perceived contributions to nestling rearing. Male contributions to nestling rearing were unaffected by either their reproductive status (breeder versus nonbreeder) or, in the case of nonbreeding helpers, their relatedness to the breeding female (related versus unrelated). In addition, we found little support for the possibility that current breeders or unrelated helpers adjusted their nestling provisioning rates in the presence of actual or potential reproductive competition in the group, at least in a manner consistent with the social prestige hypothesis. Finally, we found no evidence to suggest that unrelated (breeding or nonbreeding) males attempted to increase the breeding female's perception of their provisioning behaviour by timing their feeds to her presence. We conclude that, in chestnut-crowned babblers, patterns of male provisioning behaviour are not obviously consistent with advertising their parenting ability, and that social prestige is likely to have limited power in explaining male care in this system.