Integrated plumage colour variation in relation to body condition, reproductive investment and laying date in the collared flycatcher
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The possible integration of different sexual ornaments into a composite system, and especially the information content of such ornament complexes, is poorly investigated. Many bird species display complex plumage coloration, but whether this represents one integrated or several independent sexual traits can be unclear. Collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) display melanised and depigmented plumage areas, and the spectral features (brightness and UV chroma) of these are correlated with each other across the plumage. In a 5-year dataset of male and female plumage reflectance, we examined some of the potential information content of integrated, plumage-level colour attributes by estimating their relationships to previous and current year body condition, laying date and clutch size. Females were in better condition the year before they became darker pigmented, and males in better current year condition were also darker pigmented. Female pigment-based brightness was positively, while male structurally based brightness was negatively related to current laying date. Finally, the overall UV chroma of white plumage areas in males was positively associated with current clutch size. Our results show that higher degree of pigmentation is related to better condition, while the structural colour component is associated with some aspects of reproductive investment. These results highlight the possibility that correlated aspects of a multiple plumage ornamentation system may reflect together some aspects of individual quality, thereby functioning as a composite signal.
KeywordsFicedula albicollis Reflectance Colour integration Sexual signals
We are grateful to A. Roulin and anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. We wish to thank G. Blázi, R. Főző, L.Z. Garamszegi, E. Szász and A. Szegedi for help with the fieldwork. This research was funded by a Bolyai fellowship to G.H., OTKA grants PD72117 and K101611 to G.H., PD75481 and F68295 to B.R. and K75618 to J.T., the Eötvös Loránd University (PhD scholarship) to M.L., the Erdők a Közjóért Alapítvány and the Pilis Park Forestry. During all stages of this work, G.M. was supported by TÁMOP-4.2.1./B-09/1-KMR-2010-0005 and TÁMOP-4.2.2./B-10/1-2010-0023. This research was conducted in agreement with the current laws of Hungary.
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