Advertisement

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 209–212 | Cite as

Magpies' tails: damage as an indicator of quality

  • Susan Fitzpatrick
  • Peter Price

Abstract

Quality-indicating sexually selected traits may have their honesty maintained by their costs or by an inherent “revealing” nature. Long tails in birds are usually considered to be costly “handicaps”, but may have additional potential as revealing indicators through the incidence of breakage. Magpies Pica pica with unbroken and less abraded tails paired earlier, but did not nest or fledge young earlier than pairs with tails in poorer condition. Pairs mated assortatively by tail quality, and magpies with very broken tails remained unmated. Pairs in which both members had almost undamaged tails fledged more offspring than pairs with poorer tails. Tail quality did not correlate with the extent of any habitat type in the territory. Tail damage thus honestly indicated a magpie's reproductive potential, and the data are consistent with its having a role in mate choice, as a revealing element of tail morphology.

Key wordsPica pica   Tail damage   Quality indicators    Reproductive success   Sexual selection 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Fitzpatrick
    • 1
  • Peter Price
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Applied Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim BT37 0QB, Northern Ireland Tel: +44 (0)1232-366154; Fax: +44 (0)1232-366812; e-mail: sm.fitzpatrick@ulst.ac.ukIE

Personalised recommendations