Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 129–138 | Cite as

Female choice and the evolution of the conspicuous plumage coloration of monogamous male great tits

  • K. J. Norris


The conspicuous male plumage coloration of many avian species is often regarded as the result of sexual selection through female choice. In general terms such plumage characters may evolve in monogamous species if males bearing them pair with high quality females and so reproduce more successfully than males lacking the character. Male great tits have a conspicuous, central black breast stripe which varies in size between individuals. The stripe is also present in the female although it is smaller in size. Male great tits with large stripes paired with females which laid large clutches. Furthermore, in one of three years, females paired with such males commenced breeding earlier in the season than other females. Individual females were significantly more consistent in their clutch size and laying date between years than were nesting boxes. Males with large stripes paired with females which had previously laid a large clutch. Although there was evidence that territory quality may affect female reproductive success by influencing nesting success and nestling quality, there was no significant relationship between the stripe size of a male and the quality of his territory. Therefore, the results suggest that female great tits are choosing the characteristics of the male rather than the quality of his territory. The evidence thus suggests that female choice may be important in the evolution of male secondary sexual characteristics in great tits.


Female Choice Nest Success Plumage Coloration Female Reproductive Success Large Clutch 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. J. Norris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyEdward Grey InstituteSouth Parks RoadUK

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