Habitat structure is associated with the expression of carotenoid-based coloration in nestling blue tits Parus caeruleus
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- Arriero, E. & Fargallo, J.A. Naturwissenschaften (2006) 93: 173. doi:10.1007/s00114-006-0090-5
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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.