Individual Consistency in Parental Effort Across Multiple Stages of Care in the House Sparrow, Passer domesticus


P. L. Schwagmeyer, Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA. E-mail:


In many avian species in which biparental care is provided to offspring, substantial variation exists within members of each sex in the level of effort contributed to various forms of parental care. Questions remain as to whether individuals that contribute more toward one parental activity also contribute more toward other activities in which they participate. We examined the contributions of male and female house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to three forms of parental care: incubation, nestling provisioning, and nest defense, and compared the investments made by individuals at each stage of care relative to other same-sexed parents. In both males and females, nestling feeding rates were positively associated with time spent incubating, but no relationships were found between measures of nestling feeding and nest defense. The predictability of an individual's feeding behavior based on earlier incubation efforts may make incubation a good stage for individuals to evaluate the parental abilities of their partners.