Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Female house wrens value the nest cavity more than exclusive access to males during conflicts with female intruders

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Behaviour

Individuals should fight hardest when they stand to lose the most. Whereas males frequently compete for fertile females, females more often compete for high quality males, male care, or resources required to breed. We asked whether established, territorial female house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) challenged by simulated female intruders fight as if they place more value on retaining (1) their nesting cavity or (2) exclusive access to other benefits offered by males. We randomly assigned house wren pairs to receive one or three nest boxes and then assayed female aggression. The relative costs to losing differed between box treatments. For one-box females, the risk of losing the cavity and territory was higher. For three-box females, the risk of losing the cavity may be lower because intruders may be able to settle as secondary females in the supplemental boxes. In this situation, females would lose exclusive access to males and their territories but would still retain the male’s assistance rearing offspring since male house wrens favour their oldest brood. We found that one-box females were significantly more aggressive. This response may be adaptive, as females that switched territories between broods were significantly more likely to lose their entire nest prior to hatching than females that retained the same territory. We interpret our results to mean that female house wrens value the nest cavity more than other benefits from exclusive access to males and their territories. This work contributes to a body of evidence that females often compete for resources required to breed.

Affiliations: 1: aMichigan State University, Department of Integrative Biology, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA ; 2: bW.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners, MI 49060, USA

*Corresponding author’s e-mail address:

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Almada V.C., Gonçalves E.J., Oliveira R.F., Santos A.J. (1995). "Courting females: ecological constraints affect sex roles in a natural population of the blenniid fish Salaria pavo". — Anim. Behav. Vol 49: 1125-1127. [Crossref]
2. Alworth T., Scheiber I.B.R. (1999). "An incident of female–female aggression in the house wren". — Wilson Bull. Vol 111: 130-132.
3. Andersson M., Simmons L.W. (2006). "Sexual selection and mate choice". — Trends Ecol. Evol. Vol 21: 296-302. [Crossref]
4. Arnott G., Elwood R.W. (2009). "Gender differences in aggressive behaviour in convict cichlids". — Anim. Behav. Vol 78: 1221-1227. [Crossref]
5. Barton K. (2015). MuMIn: multi-model inference. — R Package, Version 1.13.4, available online at
6. Bateman A.J. (1948). "Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila". — Heredity Vol 2: 349-368. [Crossref]
7. Bates D., Maechler M., Bolker B., Walker S. (2014). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4. — R Package, Version 1.1-7, available online at
8. Bioacoustics research program (2011). Raven Pro: interactive sound analysis software, Version 1.4. — The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, available online at
9. Borg Å.A., Forsgren E., Magnhagen C. (2002). "Plastic sex-roles in the common goby — the effect of nest availability". — Oikos Vol 98: 105-115. [Crossref]
10. Bowers E.K., Hodges C.J., Forsman A.M., Vogel L.A., Masters B.S., Johnson B.G.P., Johnson L.S., Thompson C.F., Sakaluk S.K. (2014). "Neonatal body condition, immune responsiveness, and hematocrit predict longevity in a wild bird population". — Ecology Vol 95: 3027-3034. [Crossref]
11. Bro-Jørgensen J. (2002). "Overt female mate competition and preference for central males in a lekking antelope". — Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA Vol 99: 9290-9293. [Crossref]
12. Bro-Jørgensen J. (2011). "Intra- and intersexual conflicts and cooperation in the evolution of mating strategies: lessons learnt from ungulates". — Evol. Biol. Vol 38: 28-41. [Crossref]
13. Cain K.E., Rosvall K.A. (2014). "Next steps for understanding the selective relevance of female–female competition". — Front. Ecol. Evol. Vol 2: 32. [Crossref]
14. Chek A.A., Robertson R.J. (1991). "Infanticide in female tree swallows: a role for sexual selection". — Condor Vol 93: 454-457. [Crossref]
15. Clutton-Brock T.H. (2009). "Sexual selection in females". — Anim. Behav. Vol 77: 3-11. [Crossref]
16. Clutton-Brock T.H., Hodge S.J., Spong G., Russell A.F., Jordan N.R., Bennett N.C., Sharpe L.L., Manser M.B. (2006). "Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals". — Nature Vol 444: 1065-1068. [Crossref]
17. Clutton-Brock T.H., Huchard E. (2013). "Social competition and selection in males and females". — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 368: 20130074. [Crossref]
18. Czapka S.J., Johnson L.S. (2000). "Consequences of mate sharing for first-mated females in a polygynous songbird, the house wren". — Wilson Bull. Vol 112: 72-81. [Crossref]
19. Dale S., Slagsvold T. (1995). "Female contests for nest sites and mates in the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca". — Ethology Vol 99: 209-222. [Crossref]
20. DeMory M.L., Thompson C.F., Sakaluk S.K. (2010). "Male quality influences male provisioning in house wrens independent of attractiveness". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 21: 1156-1164. [Crossref]
21. Draud M., Macías-Ordóñez R., Verga J., Itzkowitz M. (2004). "Female and male Texas cichlids (Herichthys cyanoguttatum) do not fight by the same rules". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 15: 102-108. [Crossref]
22. Drilling N.E., Thompson C.F. (1988). "Natal and breeding dispersal in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon)". — Auk Vol 105: 480-491.
23. Drilling N.E., Thompson C.F. (1991). "Mate switching in multibrooded house wrens". — Auk Vol 108: 60-70.
24. Dubois N.S., Getty T. (2003). "Empty nests do not affect female mate choice or maternal investment in house wrens". — Condor Vol 105: 382-387. [Crossref]
25. Dubois N.S., Kennedy E.D., Getty T. (2006). "Surplus nest boxes and the potential for polygyny affect clutch size and offspring sex ratio in house wrens". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 273: 1751-1757. [Crossref]
26. Duckworth R.A. (2006). "Aggressive behaviour affects selection on morphology by influencing settlement patterns in a passerine bird". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 273: 1789-1795. [Crossref]
27. Eckerle K.P., Thompson C.F. (2006). "Mate choice in house wrens: nest cavities trump male characteristics". — Behaviour Vol 143: 253-271. [Crossref]
28. Eggert A., Otte T., Müller J. (2008). "Starving the competition: a proximate cause of reproductive skew in burying beetles (Nicrophorus vespilloides)". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 275: 2521-2528. [Crossref]
29. Elias D.O., Botero C.A., Andrade M.C.B., Mason A.C., Kasumovic M.M. (2010). "High resource valuation fuels “desperado” fighting tactics in female jumping spiders". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 21: 868-875. [Crossref]
30. Enquist M., Leimar O. (1990). "The evolution of fatal fighting". — Anim. Behav. Vol 39: 1-9. [Crossref]
31. Fitzpatrick S., Berglund A., Rosenqvist G. (1995). "Ornaments or offspring: costs to reproductive success restrict sexual selection processes". — Biol. J. Linn. Soc. Vol 55: 251-260. [Crossref]
32. Fox J., Weisberg S. (eds) (2011). An R companion to applied regression, 2nd edn.Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.
33. Frank L.G. (1986). "Social organization of the spotted hyaena Crocuta crocuta. II. Dominance and reproduction". — Anim. Behav. Vol 34: 1510-1527. [Crossref]
34. Freed L.A. (1986). "Territory takeover and sexually selected infanticide in tropical house wrens". — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 19: 197-206.
35. French J.A., Mustoe A.C., Cavanaugh J., Birnie A.K. (2013). "The influence of androgenic steroid hormones on female aggression in ‘atypical’ mammals". — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 368: 20130084. [Crossref]
36. Gowaty P.A., Wagner S.J. (1988). "Breeding season aggression of female and male Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) to models of potential conspecific and interspecific egg dumpers". — Ethology Vol 78: 238-250. [Crossref]
37. Grafen A. (1987). "The logic of divisively asymmetric contests: respect for ownership and the desperado effect". — Anim. Behav. Vol 35: 462-467. [Crossref]
38. Grana S.C., Sakaluk S.K., Bowden R.M., Doellman M.A., Vogel L.A., Thompson C.F. (2012). "Reproductive allocation in female house wrens is not influenced by experimentally altered male attractiveness". — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 66: 1247-1258. [Crossref]
39. Gwynne D.T., Simmons L.W. (1990). "Experimental reversal of courtship roles in an insect". — Nature Vol 346: 172-174. [Crossref]
40. Heinsohn R. (2008). "The ecological basis of unusual sex roles in reverse-dichromatic Eclectus parrots". — Anim. Behav. Vol 76: 97-103. [Crossref]
41. Johnson L.S., Albrecht D.J. (1993). "Does the cost of polygyny in house wrens include reduced male assistance in defending offspring?" — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 33: 131-136. [Crossref]
42. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H. (1990). "Structure and context of female song in a north-temperate population of house wrens". — J. Field Ornithol. Vol 61: 273-284.
43. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H. (1991a). "Effect of nest-site supplementation on polygynous behavior in the house wren (Troglodytes aedon)". — Condor Vol 93: 784-787. [Crossref]
44. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H. (1991b). "The functions of song in male house wrens (Troglodytes aedon)". — Behaviour Vol 116: 190-209. [Crossref]
45. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H. (1993). "Why is reduced male parental assistance detrimental to the reproductive success of secondary female house wrens?" — Anim. Behav. Vol 46: 1111-1120. [Crossref]
46. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H. (1994). "Nesting success of cavity-nesting birds using natural tree cavities". — J. Field Ornithol. Vol 65: 36-51.
47. Johnson L.S., Kermott L.H., Lein M.R. (1993). "The cost of polygyny in the house wren Troglodytes aedon". — J. Anim. Ecol. Vol 62: 669-682. [Crossref]
48. Johnson L.S., Searcy W.A. (1996). "Female attraction to male song in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon)". — Behaviour Vol 133: 357-366. [Crossref]
49. Jones A.G., Ratterman N.L. (2009). "Mate choice and sexual selection: what have we learned since Darwin?" — Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA Vol 106: 10001-10008. [Crossref]
50. Kendeigh S.C. (1941). "Territorial and mating behavior of the house wren". — Ill. Biol. Monogr. Vol 18: 1-120.
51. Koivula K., Lahti K., Orell M., Rytkönen S. (1993). "Prior residency as a key determinant of social dominance in the willow tit (Parus montanus)". — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 33: 283-287. [Crossref]
52. Korner-Nievergelt F., Roth T., von Felten S., Guélat J., Almasi B., Korner-Nievergelt P. (2015). Bayesian data analysis in ecology using linear models with R, BUGS, and Stan. — Academic Press, San Diego, CA.
53. Krieg C.A., Getty T. (2016). "Not just for males: females use song against male and female rivals in a temperate zone songbird". — Anim. Behav. Vol 113: 39-47. [Crossref]
54. Liker A., Székely T. (1997). "Aggression among female lapwings, Vanellus vanellus". — Anim. Behav. Vol 54: 797-802. [Crossref]
55. Llambías P.E., LaBarbera K., Astíe A.A. (2012). "Similar patterns of parental provisioning in a monogamous and a polygynous population of the house wren". — Condor Vol 114: 629-638. [Crossref]
56. Magee L. (1990). "R2 measures based on Wald and likelihood ratio joint significance tests". — Am. Stat. Vol 44: 250-253.
57. Murphy T.G., Hernández-Muciño D., Osorio-Beristain M., Montgomerie R., Omland K.E. (2009). "Carotenoid-based status signaling by females in the tropical streak-backed oriole". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 20: 1000-1006. [Crossref]
58. Newton L. (1994). "The role of nest sites in limiting the numbers of hole-nesting birds: a review". — Biol. Conserv. Vol 70: 265-276. [Crossref]
59. Papadopoulos N.T., Carey J.R., Liedo P., Müller H., Sentürk D. (2009). "Virgin females compete for mates in the male lekking species Ceratitis capitata". — Physiol. Entomol. Vol 34: 238-245. [Crossref]
60. Pusey A.E., Schroepfer-Walker K. (2013). "Female competition in chimpanzees". — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Bio. Sci. Vol 368: 20130077.
61. R Core Team (2013). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. — R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, available online at
62. Renison D., Boersma D., Martella M.B. (2003). "Fighting in female magellanic penguins: when, why and who wins?" — Wilson Bull. Vol 115: 58-63. [Crossref]
63. Rillich J., Buhl E., Schildberger K., Stevenson P.A. (2009). "Female crickets are driven to fight by the male courting and calling songs". — Anim. Behav. Vol 77: 737-742. [Crossref]
64. Robinson M.R., Kruuk L.E.B. (2007). "Function of weaponry in females: the use of horns in intrasexual competition for resources in female Soay sheep". — Biol. Lett. Vol 3: 651-654. [Crossref]
65. Robinson S.K. (1985). "Fighting and assessment in the yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela)". — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 18: 39-44.
66. Rosvall K.A. (2008). "Sexual selection on aggressiveness in females: evidence from an experimental test with tree swallows". — Anim. Behav. Vol 75: 1603-1610. [Crossref]
67. Rosvall K.A. (2011). "Intrasexual competition in females: evidence for sexual selection?" — Behav. Ecol. Vol 22: 1131-1140. [Crossref]
68. Rubenstein D.R. (2012). "Sexual and social competition: broadening perspectives by defining female roles". — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 367: 2248-2252. [Crossref]
69. Sæther S.A., Fiske P., Kålås J.A. (2001). "Male mate choice, sexual conflict and strategic allocation of copulation in a lekking bird". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 268: 2097-2102. [Crossref]
70. Sandell M.I. (1998). "Female aggression and the maintenance of monogamy: female behaviour predicts male mating status in European starlings". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 265: 1307-1311. [Crossref]
71. Sandell M.I., Smith H.G. (1997). "Female aggression in the European starling during the breeding season". — Anim. Behav. Vol 53: 13-23. [Crossref]
72. Shelly T.E. (1999). "Defense of oviposition sites by female oriental fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae)". — Florida Entomol. Vol 82: 339-346. [Crossref]
73. Shuster S.M., Wade M.J. (2003). Mating systems and strategies. — Princeton University Press, Princeton, NY.
74. Sinn D.L., While G.M., Wapstra E. (2008). "Maternal care in a social lizard: links between female aggression and offspring fitness". — Anim. Behav. Vol 76: 1249-1257. [Crossref]
75. Slagsvold T., Lifjeld J.T. (1994). "Polygyny in birds: the role of competition between females for male parental care". — Am. Nat. Vol 143: 59-94. [Crossref]
76. Soukup S.S., Thompson C.F. (1998). "Social mating system and reproductive success in house wrens". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 9: 43-48. [Crossref]
77. Stockley P., Bro-Jørgensen J. (2011). "Female competition and its evolutionary consequences in mammals". — Biol. Rev. Vol 86: 341-366. [Crossref]
78. Stockley P., Campbell A. (2013). "Female competition and aggression: interdisciplinary perspectives". — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 368: 20130073.
79. Summers K. (1989). "Sexual selection and intra-female competition in the poison-dart frog, Dendrobates auratus". — Anim. Behav. Vol 37: 797-805. [Crossref]
80. Veiga J.P. (1992). "Why are house sparrows predominantly monogamous? A test of hypotheses". — Anim. Behav. Vol 43: 361-370. [Crossref]
81. Watson N.L., Simmons L.W. (2010). "Reproductive competition promotes the evolution of female weaponry". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 277: 2035-2040. [Crossref]
82. While G.M., Sinn D.L., Wapstra E. (2009). "Female aggression predicts mode of paternity acquisition in a social lizard". — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. Vol 276: 2021-2029. [Crossref]
83. Wong M.Y.L., Munday P.L., Buston P.M., Jones G.P. (2008). "Monogamy when there is potential for polygyny: test of multiple hypotheses in a group-living fish". — Behav. Ecol. Vol 19: 353-361. [Crossref]
84. Yokel D.A. (1989). "Payoff asymmetries in contests among male brown-headed cowbirds". — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. Vol 24: 209-216. [Crossref]

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Behaviour — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation