Male-male competition and parental care in collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis)

An experiment controlling for differences in territory quality

A. Qvarnström*, S. C. Griffith, L. Gustafsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


Females are known to benefit from mate choice in several different ways but the relationship between these benefits has received little attention. The quality of resources provided by males, such as nest sites, and paternal care are often assumed to covary positively. However, because the location of the nest affects the cost of parental care, these two benefits from mate choice can easily be confounded. To investigate the provisioning ability of successful competitors while controlling for differences in territory quality we removed early-settled pairs of collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) and allowed replacement by later-arriving males or floaters (i.e. "poor competitors"). A control group of early-settled males (i.e. "good competitors") had their females removed. Females paired to good competitors enjoyed a significantly higher reproductive success and tended to receive more parental assistance from their mates compared with females mated to poor competitors. Thus, some males seem able not only to compete successfully over resources but also to feed their offspring at a relatively higher rate. An alternative explanation, that poor competitors invested less in offspring quality in response to a lower share of paternity, could be rejected. The rate of extra-pair paternity did not differ between the two treatment groups. Our results suggest that male-male competition can sometimes facilitate female choice of superior care-givers. Thus, a female's benefit from choosing a competitive male may not be restricted to the quality of the resource he defends but can also include superior paternal care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2547-2552
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1461
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Direct benefits
  • Female choice
  • Male-male competition
  • Multiple benefits
  • Parental care
  • Resource quality

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