Plumage Characteristics in Tree Swallows Tachycineta Bicolor: Honest Signals of Condition, Reproductive Investment and Mating Strategies
Plumage characteristics are known to honestly reflect individual quality in many species of birds, and influence inter- and intra-sexual interactions between conspecifics. In this study, I investigated the ecological significance of plumage characteristics of male and female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Plumage characteristics were related to age in both males and females. Female plumage attributes were positively associated with mean mass of the eggs laid, and their ability to fledge young. Also, I found that breeding pairs mated assortatively by plumage brightness. Furthermore, males that produced extra-pair young were brighter and older than males that did not produce extra-pair young. Collectively, my results demonstrate that plumage characteristics in tree swallows convey information about individual quality and influence the behaviour of conspecifics. These findings are important, because this is the first study on the signalling value of plumage characteristics in this species.
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