Skip to main content

Social network position predicts male mating success in a small passerine

Cite this dataset

Beck, Kristina; Farine, Damien; Kempenaers, Bart (2021). Social network position predicts male mating success in a small passerine [Dataset]. Dryad.


Individuals differ in the quantity and quality of associations with conspecifics. The resulting variation in the positions that individuals occupy within their social environment can affect several aspects of life history, including reproductive behavior. While research increasingly shows how social factors can predict dyadic mating patterns (i.e. who will breed with whom), much less is known about how an individual’s social position affects it’s overall likelihood to acquire mating partner(s). We studied social networks of socially monogamous blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) to investigate whether the number and strength of connections to opposite-sex conspecifics, the ratio between same- and opposite-sex connections, and the tendency to move between social groups in the months prior to breeding affects individuals’ success in acquiring 1) a breeding partner and 2) an extra-pair partner. After controlling for differences in spatial location, we show that males without previous local breeding experience that moved more often between social groups were more likely to acquire a breeding partner. Moreover, adult males that associated with more females were more likely to sire extra-pair young. The number of female associates also predicted the proportion of familiar female breeding neighbors, suggesting that familiarity among neighbors may facilitate opportunities for extra-pair matings. In females, none of the social network metrics significantly predicted the likelihood of acquiring a breeding or extra-pair partner. Our study suggests that the positioning of males within their social environment prior to breeding can translate into future mating success, adding an important new dimension to studies of (extra-pair) mating behavior.