Do melanin- or carotenoid-pigmented plumage ornaments signal condition and predict pairing success in the Kentucky Warbler?

Timothy H. Parker, Brooke M. Stansberry, C. Dustin Becker, Philip S. Gipson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Yellow and red feathers pigmented by carotenoids can signal a bird's condition and are important to both female choice and male-male competition. Melanin-based ornaments are thought to be less effective than carotenoid ornaments as indicators of condition, though their signal function is still relatively unstudied. We examined both carotenoid and melanin-pigmented feather ornaments in a single species, the Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus). Both males and females of this species have melanin-pigmented ornamentation (black crown, black face) and carotenoid-pigmented ornamentation (lemon-yellow undersides). Melanin-pigmented plumage patches were larger in males than females, and males had brighter breast plumage, with a larger ultraviolet component, than females. Among males in the wild, individuals in better condition had more extensive black caps and faces, but not brighter-yellow breasts. Males with larger black caps were more likely to attract mates. This work demonstrates that, in a species with both melanin- and carotenoid- pigmented plumage, melanin-pigmented ornaments can signal condition, and that a melanin-based signal can explain variance in mating success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-671
Number of pages9
JournalCondor
Volume105
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2003

Keywords

  • Oporornis formosus
  • Pairing success
  • Reflectance spectra

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