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There is increasing evidence that sexual selection may be intense even in socially monogamous birds, resulting from both mate choice and sperm competition. We studied these two modes of sexual selection experimentally by removing paired male collared flycatchers, Ficedula albicollis, from their mates for 2 days and investigating the factors that influenced the likelihood of a replacement male appearing and how the removals influenced paternity. Replacement males (usually neighbouring males) appeared at 81% (n = 37) of nests where males were removed. The likelihood of this appearance was unaffected by the probable reproductive value of the female's clutch to the replacing male. A replacement was, however, less likely when the original male had a large forehead patch, a trait previously shown to be subject to sexual selection in this population. Experimental removal of males increased the level of sperm competition: 74% of experimental broods were multiply sired, compared to 29% of unmanipulated broods in a previous study. Only two factors predicted how paternity was shared between males: removed males fathered more young if removed closer to laying, and if they had larger forehead patches. The former result is consistent with last-male sperm precedence determining paternity, whereas the latter adds to other evidence that forehead patch size is the target of female preference in this species. Our results suggest that females exert some control over male replacement, and also that they may influence the fertilisation success of males by behavioural means.

Original publication




Journal article


Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Publication Date





141 - 148