We studied the reproductive strategy of a Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia popula- tion, breeding in nest boxes in the Western Alps (Italy). Over seven years of study (1991–1997) 19% of the females laid second clutches after successfully fledging the first one. Among these, about 50% deserted the first nest when nestlings were 14.3 d old (range=8–19 d), 3.6 d before fledging (range=1–8 d). In all these cases the primary male mate took over all parental duties and successfully reared the young. Inter-clutch time of deserting females was 8.1 d shorter than that of non-deserting double-brooded females. The breeding success of deserting females was significantly greater than that of both single-brooded females and double-brooded females that did not desert their first brood. The fledging success of the second clutches depended on the status of the secondary male: females paired with previously unpaired males had a higher fledging success than those that paired with a polygynous male. The frequency of deserting females varied among years from 0 to 16%, and was signifi- cantly and positively correlated with the frequency of males available as mates at the time of desertion. In this study we showed that sequential polyandry with brood desertion is a regularly occurring strategy in the female Rock Sparrow.
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