When assessing the benefits of early arrival date of migratory birds, a hidden and often ignored component of males’ fitness is the higher chance of early-arriving birds to obtain extra-pair fertilizations. Here we investigated how extra-pair paternity might affect the relationship between male arrival date and number of fertilizations in a model study system, the European pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca. For this purpose, we sampled and genotyped breeding pairs, unpaired males and offspring (including embryos from unhatched eggs when possible) of a Dutch pied flycatcher population. Detailed information on arrival date of males, egg laying date of their social mates and nest success was also recorded. Early-arriving males had early-laying females and males with early-laying females had a higher probability of siring extra-pair eggs and obtain more fertilizations. However, male arrival date alone did not correlate with the probability to gain extra-pair paternity and neither to the amount of fertilized eggs. Both early- and late-arriving males had a higher probability of losing paternity in their own nest compared to birds with an intermediate arrival date. Finally, late-arriving males were more likely to remain unpaired but, interestingly, a few of these birds obtained paternity via extra-pair copulations. Because earlier arrival date did not lead to more extra-pair fertilizations and because such relationship seems to be driven mainly by the female's laying date, we conclude that the contribution of extra-pair paternity to the overall fitness benefits of early male arrival date is relatively small.
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Data from: Early arrival is not associated with more extra-pair fertilizations in a long-distance migratory bird.