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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 May 7;276(1662):1619-26. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1452. Epub 2009 Jan 20.

Non-breeding season events influence sexual selection in a long-distance migratory bird.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.


The study of sexual selection has traditionally focused on events and behaviours immediately surrounding copulation. In this study, we examine whether carry-over effects from the non-breeding season can influence the process of sexual selection in a long-distance migratory bird, the American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla). Previous work on American redstarts demonstrated that overwintering in a high-quality habitat influences spring departure dates from the wintering grounds, advances arrival dates on the breeding grounds and increases apparent reproductive success. We show that the mixed-mating strategy of American redstarts compounds the benefits of overwintering in high-quality winter habitats. Males arriving to breed in Canada from high-quality winter habitats arrive earlier than males from poor-quality habitats, resulting in a lower probability of paternity loss, a higher probability of achieving polygyny and ultimately higher realized reproductive success. Such results suggest that the process of sexual selection may be influenced by events interacting throughout the annual cycle.

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