Sexual differences in moult–breeding overlap and female reproductive costs in pied flycatchers, Ficedula hypoleuca


C. Hemborg, Department of Zoology, Uppsala University, Villavägen 9, S-752 36, Uppsala, Sweden. Fax: +46-18-55 98 88. E-mail: christer.hemborg@


1. In this study I show that a sexual difference in timing of the post-nuptial moult frequently occurs in a sub-arctic population of the pied flycatcher.

2. Most pairs started to moult after fledging of their young, but an overlap between moult and nestling feeding was more common among males than females. This sexual difference in moult–breeding overlap increased as the season progressed.

3. Females with moult–breeding overlap laid smaller clutches than non-moulting females. In addition to many other factors explaining the seasonal decline in clutch size that has been found for many bird species, it is possible that females adjust their clutch size according to their own risk of having to start moulting while still feeding the nestlings.

4. Nearly 24% of the females were deserted by their mate before the young fledged. Desertion imposed no fitness costs to males in terms of fledgling number or quality, suggesting that their females managed to adjust their care for the loss of male care.

5. Deserted females started moulting later than aided females, which may be a result of their increased reproductive investment.

6. Deserted females and females aided by moulting males had lower survival rate than females aided by non-moulting males.

7. These findings suggests that delayed moult may be one mechanism causing inter-annual reproductive costs in birds, and the relationship between a sexual difference in timing of moult and its fitness consequences may be widespread among passerine birds.