(from Evans and Burn, 1996)Males vary in their ability to make nests - or in their ability to defend a territory where the nests can be built. Age makes a difference, with older males better at making nests. Habitat structure is also important, with denser vegetation indicating a better territory, where nests are less likely to be predated. But the most important explanatory factor is male condition: heavier males at the beginning of the season will be able to make more nests, so the number of nests is a measure of male quality. Females benefit from mating with males demonstrating their good condition, so it pays them to carry out a nest count before settling for a male. Experimental manipulating of number of nests present on each male's territory carried out by Mathew Evans and Joe Burn showed that the actual number of nests is the mate-choice cue that the female uses to assess male quality. The making of multiple nest by the male wren as an ornament, an extended phenotype result of the same factor than the tail of the peacock, a signal of quality selected by sexual selection.
Evans, M. (1997). Nest building signals male condition rather than age in wrens Animal Behaviour, 53 (4), 749-755 DOI: 10.1006/anbe.1996.0311
Evans, M., & Burn, J. (1996). An experimental analysis of mate choice in the wren: a monomorphic, polygynous passerine Behavioral Ecology, 7 (1), 101-108 DOI: 10.1093/beheco/7.1.101