Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

July 1985


Electrophoretic and behavioral evidence corroborate the conclusion that Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) females occasionally copulate with more than one male, which results in the insemination of a single clutch of eggs by those males. In 2 of 12 families from which blood samples were obtained from the mother, the putative father, and the nestlings, at least 2 males were responsible for fertilization of the clutch. We believe this is only the second bird species in which multiple paternity has been documented conclusively in the wild. Our speculation that it may not be uncommon leads to a caution for evolutionary biologists who use apparent reproductive success in birds to address questions about fitness.