High frequency of extra-pair paternity in an urban population of Cooper's Hawks

Journal of Field Ornithology
By: , and 



Raptors exhibit some of the highest rates of intra-pair copulations among birds, perhaps in an attempt by males to reduce the risk of being cuckolded. Indeed, the frequency of extra-pair fertilizations reported in studies of raptors to date is relatively low (0-11.2%). Socially monogamous Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) exhibit one of the highest copulation rates among birds, yet there are no published accounts of extra-pair copulations (or paternity). We studied a population of Cooper's Hawks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during three breeding seasons (2003, 2004, and 2007), examining the possible effects of age (1 yr old vs. ≥ 2 yr old), adult mass, and brood size on the frequency of extra-pair paternity (EPP). We found that 19.3% of nestlings (N = 27/140) were extra-pair young (EPY), and 34% of all broods (N = 15/44) had at least one EPY. The sires of the EPY in our study were identified for only two broods, suggesting that floater males may have engaged in extra-pair copulations with territorial females. We found that brood size was a good predictor of the occurrence of EPP (EPP) in nests, but adult mass and female age were not. To our knowledge, these possible correlates of the occurrence of EPP in raptors had not previously been investigated. Male Cooper's Hawks provide food for females during the pre-nesting period, and delivery of food is, in contrast to other raptor species, typically followed by copulation. Thus, one possible explanation of the relatively high rates of EPP in our study is that females might accept or even solicit extra-pair copulations from males other than their mates as a means of maximizing energy intake for egg production. Such behavior might be particularly likely in our study area, i.e., a food-rich urban setting with a high breeding density of Cooper's Hawks.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title High frequency of extra-pair paternity in an urban population of Cooper's Hawks
Series title Journal of Field Ornithology
DOI 10.1111/jofo.12097
Volume 86
Issue 2
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Northeastern Bird-Banding Association
Publisher location Ipswich, NH
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Description 9 p.
First page 144
Last page 152
Country United States
State Wisconsin
City Milwaukee
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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