• carotenoids;
  • egg quality;
  • immunity;
  • maternal effects;
  • primary sex ratio;
  • secondary sexual characters;
  • sex allocation

Abstract Mothers influence their offspring phenotype by varying egg quality. Such maternal effects may be mediated by transmission of antibodies and antioxidants. Mothers should adjust allocation of maternal substances depending on embryonic sex because of differences in reproductive value, potentially dependent on paternal genetic effects as reflected by secondary sexual characters. We manipulated sexual attractiveness of male barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) and investigated maternal investment in eggs in relation to offspring sex. Mothers allocated more antibodies against a pathogen to eggs with a daughter than a son. However, concentration of antioxidants was independent of embryonic sex. Sex-dependent allocation was independent of paternal attractiveness. Thus, mothers adjusted allocation of substances to offspring in a complex manner, that may be part of a strategy of favouritism of daughters, which have larger mortality than sons. Such effects may have important consequences for secondary and tertiary sex ratios, but also for ontogeny of adult phenotype.