Familiarity between mates improves few aspects of reproductive performance in house sparrows

Margret I. Hatch, David F. Westneat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Many hypotheses have been proposed to account for the increased reproductive success with age documented in most birds. One, the mate familiarity hypothesis, suggests that older individuals are likely to have partners with whom they have bred before, which may enhance reproductive success. We found that pairs of house sparrows that bred together previously fledged more young than pairs that were newly formed. This was primarily due to newly-formed pairs with at least one yearling having fewer nesting attempts than continuing pairs. We also examined the possibility that continuing pairs were better coordinated in parental duties, but found no evidence for this in terms of amount of overlap at the nestbox or amount of time nestlings were unattended. Our results suggest the higher success of continuing pairs may be a matter of female age and quality and not due to benefits accrued by coordination with their mate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-376
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding provided to MIH by NSF grant IBN-0073239, The Graduate School of the University of Kentucky, The Ribble Fund of the Department of Biology and Sigma-Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research. Funding provided to DFW by NSF grant IBN-9816989 and the University of Kentucky. We thank the UK Agricultural Experiment Station and the staff at Maine Chance Farm for permission to do this study. We greatly appreciate the assistance in the field provided by I. Stewart, T. Kinnard, L. Abdulkadir, K. Chipko, R. Edenfield, J. Gipson, E. Halpin, D. Landrum, E. Orozco, R. Petralia, H. Schaefer and J. Weiskittle. We also thank R.J. Smith and three anonymous reviewers for comments which helped improve the manuscript.


  • Pair-bond
  • Parental behavior
  • Reproductive success

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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