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.



  • Current address: Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.

    • Received October 7, 2008.
    • Accepted December 22, 2008.
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