, Volume 87, Issue 10, pp 460-464

Growth conditions affect carotenoid-based plumage coloration of great tit nestlings

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 Carotenoid-based integument colour in animals has been hypothesised to signal individual phenotypic quality because it reliably reflects either foraging efficiency or health status. We investigated whether carotenoid-derived yellow plumage coloration of fledgling great tits (Parus major) reflects their nestling history. Great tit fledglings reared in a poor year (1998) or in the urban habitat were less yellow than these reared in a good year (1999) or in the forest. The origin of nestlings also affected their coloration since nestlings from a city population did not improve their coloration when transferred to the forest. Brood size manipulation affected fledgling colour, but only in the rural population, where nestlings from reduced broods developed more yellow coloration than nestlings from increased and control broods. Effect of brood size manipulation on fledgling plumage colour was independent of the body mass, indicating that growth environment affects fledgling body mass and plumage colour by different pathways.

Received: 20 March 2000 / Accepted in revised form: 4 September 2000