Female coloration, sexual selection, and male mate choice in eastern bluebirds, Sialia sialis. Summary
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In many animals, females are considered the choosy sex while males compete for mates. However, in species with biparental care and variation in the quality of females, males would also benefit from being choosy. In several species of birds, females base their mate choice decisions on plumage characteristics such as color and size of a patch. Additionally, plumage coloration and patch size are often indicators of quality, reproductive success, and parental effort.
Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are a socially monogamous passerine. Both males and females provide parental care by defending and feeding the young. As adults, both sexes possess colorful plumage patches, a blue rump patch, a chestnut breast patch, and a blue tail. In males, individuals with brighter blue plumage enjoy a higher reproductive success. Additionally, blue plumage appears to be a nutritionally dependent trait, indicating that coloration may convey information about an individual’s quality.
In this study, we examined whether coloration of female eastern bluebirds is related to individual quality measured by various metrics of reproductive success.
Joanna K. Hubbard & John P. Swaddle
Biology Department, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Dr. Dan Cristol, Dr. George Gilchrist, Jake Sequiera, Alex Gunderson, and members of the Swaddle Lab. This work is supported by NSF IOB-0133795 to JPS, The Charles Center at William & Mary, The Virginia Society of Ornithology, The Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, and The Williamsburg Bird Club