Royal Society Publishing

Experimentally increased badge size increases male competition and reduces male parental care in the collared flycatcher

Anna Qvarnström


Experimental enlargement of sexually selected traits that are energetically cheap to produce is expected to reveal costs resulting from increased risk of predation or social competition. Given a trade–off between sexually selected traits and life history traits such costs may be expected to affect not only the males themselves but also their offspring. In this study I manipulated the size of the forehead patch, a sexually selected trait that functions as a badge of status in male collared flycatchers Ficedula albicollis). First, I found that a male's likelihood to establish a breeding territory with respect to his original badge size was affected by the treatment such that old males (older than or equal to two years) with relatively small original badges enjoyed an increased likelihood of establishing a breeding territory while young males (yearlings) suffered a reduced likelihood of establishment when their badges were enlarged as compared to unchanged. Second, young males with enlarged badges that were able to establish a territory fed their nestlings less in relation to their females compared to the control males. However, the females adjusted their parental effort to such an extent that no significant differences were observed in total feeding rate nor in reproductive success between the two groups of males. These results suggest that experimentally enlarged badge size in the collared flycatcher may result in increased male competition and that males have to trade their effort spent in male contest against their parental effort.