In sexually promiscuous animals, females may benefit by nesting close to the edge of their partner's territory to facilitate extrapair copulations. In the present study, we describe the extrapair mating system of black-capped chickadees, Poecile atricapillus, and test whether nest locations are influenced by conspecific attraction to extrapair partners. We conducted a spatial analysis of female mating strategies by using microsatellite paternity analysis in conjunction with geographic information system (GIS) analysis of nest and territory locations. Extrapair offspring comprised 52 of 351 offspring (14.8%) and were present in 19 of 57 broods (33.3%). Females paired to males with low dominance status in the previous winter's flock hierarchy were more likely to engage in a mixed reproductive strategy than were females paired to males with high dominance status. Females had extrapair copulations and extrapair fertilizations with high-ranking males more often than with low-ranking males. Not all extrapair copulations resulted in extrapair fertilizations. Females constructed their nests within 16.8 ± 1.0 m of the edge of their partner's territory, significantly closer to the edge of their nearest neighbor's territory than to the center of their own partner's territory. Extrapair males usually shared territory boundaries with cuckolded males. Females paired to low-ranking males constructed nests near the territory edges of neighboring high-ranking males. However, females did not have extrapair copulations with the neighbor nearest to their nest or even with the high-ranking neighbor nearest to their nest. We conclude that conspecific attraction to neighbors may influence nesting location in black-capped chickadees; however, it does not operate by facilitating extrapair copulations.
Used potter traps to capture birds, banded and took blood samples and assessed flock hierarchy