, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 173–180 | Cite as

Habitat structure is associated with the expression of carotenoid-based coloration in nestling blue tits Parus caeruleus

Original Article


We investigated how the expression of carotenoid-based plumage coloration (lightness and chroma) in nestling blue tits Parus caeruleus is associated with forest structure in oak forests of central Spain. We found evidence of a reduced expression of carotenoid-based coloration in nestlings growing up in successionally young and structurally simple forest territories. Our results suggest that breast feather coloration can be used as an indicator of nestling quality because nestlings with more intense yellow plumage coloration had larger body size and stronger immune responses to the injection of phytohemagglutinin (PHA). Given the association of forest structural complexity with carotenoid-based plumage coloration, our findings suggest that variation in habitat structure may have a significant impact on forest birds in their first stages of life which has implications for forest management practices.


Carotenoid Habitat Structure Plumage Coloration Breeding Territory Nestle Body Mass 



The study was financially supported by projects 07M/0137/2000 (Comunidad de Madrid) to LM Carrascal and BOS2001-0587 to J Moreno (Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología). M Romero-Pujante, JJ Sanz, S Merino, and A Martin helped in the fieldwork, and LM. Carrascal helped with the habitat structure data. We thank R. Fletcher for statistical advices concerning spatial correlation, and JA Davila and A Machordon for assistance with the molecular sexing. J Moreno, JC Senar, and two anonymous referees made valuable comments of early versions of the manuscript. EA was supported by a fellowship from El Ventorrillo-CSIC. El Ventorrillo field station provided the necessary facilities during the fieldwork. Comunidad de Madrid authorized the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)MadridSpain

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