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Abstract

Models of mate sampling strategies predict that choosiness should decrease throughout the breeding season due to increasing costs of delaying mating. Therefore, individuals who start searching mates relatively late, should spend less time on sampling, and sample fewer candidates compared to early individuals. We observed mate searching behavior of female pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) by radio-tracking in study areas with 6–12 unpaired males. Contrary to the prediction, the observed numbers of males sampled by the searching females increased with time, i.e. late arriving females visited more males than early arrivers. However, this seems to be due to more active sampling of males in short time by late-arriving females. The observed sampling pattern suggests some kind of comparison tactic, which seems, however, to be very variable among individual females. Mate-assessing females were characterized by a remarkably cryptic behavior, which may be 1) a way of gaining honest information about the male mating status or male/territory quality, or 2) a way of avoiding courtship costs.