Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 12, pp 1969-1979

First online:

Informative content of multiple plumage-coloured traits in female and male European Rollers

  • Nadia SilvaAffiliated withLaboratoire Évolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR CNRS-UPS 5174, Université Paul Sabatier–Toulouse III
  • , Jesús M. AvilésAffiliated withDepartamento de Biología Animal y Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada
  • , Etiénne DanchinAffiliated withLaboratoire Évolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR CNRS-UPS 5174, Université Paul Sabatier–Toulouse III
  • , Deseada ParejoAffiliated withDepartment of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, C.S.I.C. Email author 

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Animals may assess the quality of other individuals by using information that different ornaments may provide. The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is a socially monogamous species in which males and females display highly conspicuous plumage colouration. According to the mutual selection hypothesis, we predicted that, in this species, plumage coloration could signal individual quality in both sexes because both female and male rollers invest a considerable amount of time caring for their offspring. We used spectrophotometric measurements to investigate the information content of multiple plumage colour traits. We found that the roller is actually a sexually dimorphic and dichromatic species. Different plumage colours from different origins were correlated within individual. Head and back brightness correlated with body condition in both sexes, and in males, head brightness correlated with the number of fledglings in successful nests, while head green-yellow saturation correlated with parental provisioning. Meanwhile, in females, back brightness was related to the number of fledglings in successful nests and to parental provisioning rate. In addition, there was a positive assortative mating in relation to weight, body condition, head green-yellow saturation and back brightness. Finally, we found a positive correlation between parent and offspring coloration. Altogether, these results suggest that multiple colour traits may act as quality indicators in the roller and that they may be used by the two sexes to assess potential mate quality.


Assortative mating Coracias garrulus Multiple mutual ornaments Plumage coloration