Evol Ecol Res 7: 1013-1023 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Negative relationship between plumage colour and breeding output in female great tits, Parus major

Raivo Mänd,1* Vallo Tilgar1 and Anders P. Møller2

1Institute of Zoology and Hydrobiology, Centre of Basic and Applied Ecology, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, Tartu EE-51014, Estonia and  2Laboratoire de Parasitologie Evolutive, CNRS UMR 7103, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 7 quai St. Bernard, F-75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: raivo.mand@ut.ee


Hypothesis: A higher carotenoid content of the plumage has usually been considered an indicator of superior individual quality in birds. Therefore, we expected a positive relationship between breeding output and plumage yellowness of male and female parents.

Organism: Great tit (Parus major).

Field site: Deciduous and coniferous forests in Estonia.

Search method: We examined whether basic breeding parameters were related to the plumage hue of male and female breeding partner in this monogamous species. We conducted our study in two years, differing markedly from each other in weather conditions during the breeding season and overall breeding success.

Results: Contrary to our expectation, more yellow females had on average lower fledging success and fewer fledglings than less yellow females in the year when breeding conditions were unfavourable. Colourful females were in better body condition than dull females during the nestling period. Breeding output was not significantly related to male plumage yellowness.

Keywords: body mass, breeding success, carotenoids, conditional strategy, good parent hypothesis, Parus major, plumage hue.

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