In double-brooded species, the sex that contributes less to breeding success may desert offspring before the end of the rearing period to start a new breeding attempt with another partner. I evaluated that prediction in the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), a species in which the male feeds the brood on average twice as often as the female. Among birds that produced a second brood, 46% of females and 4% of males deserted their offspring before completion of parental duties to remate with another partner at a distance of 1 to 10 km. Offspring desertion did not appear to incur a reproductive cost to the deserter, because deserting females at the first nest produced a similar number of offspring as nondeserting ones. In most cases, the new mate of deserting females had not been previously captured in the study area, and hence had probably not previously bred that season. Although the second clutch of deserting females was larger and produced two weeks earlier than that of nondeserting females, their nesting success did not differ.
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Vol. 119 • No. 2