• Otter, Kenneth A.
  • Ratcliffe, Laurene M.
  • Michaud-Freeman, Denise
  • Boag, Peter T.


Previous studies have shown that some female black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) solicit copulations from males that rank higher in winter flocks than their social mates, and extra-pair paternity in nests occurs commonly enough to be considered a potential female mating tactic. This study uses blood samples collected in 1992–1995 from 58 families of black-capped chickadees to test whether females with extra-pair offspring have chosen extra-pair sires higher in social rank than their mates. Paternity was assessed with multilocus DNA fingerprinting in 1992–1994 nests and with microsatellite and single-locus minisatellite DNA typing in 1995 nests. Seventeen of 58 nests (29.3%) contained young genetically mismatched with their social father. In 11 of 15 cases where the identity of the extra-pair male was known, the extra-pair male was dominant to the social father. Using data from 29 nests located in 1994 and 1995 for which we had the most data on relative ranks of males, high-ranking males had greater realized reproductive success than low-ranking males as a result of extra-pair fertilizations. There was no significant difference between the number of nests containing extra-pair young of females mated to low-ranked versus high-ranked males. Two nests in 1995 contained young either genetically mismatched with both social parents (intraspecific brood parasitism) or, in one nest, genetically mismatched with the social mother but not the social father (quasi-parasitism). The implications of female strategies acquiring genetic benefits through extra-pair copulations are discussed.


Potter traps baited with seed, netting adults at nest cavities, nestling DNA fingerprinting