Seasonal colour change by moult or by the abrasion of feather tips: A comparative study

Jácint Tökölyi, V. Bókony, Z. Barta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many birds undergo seasonal changes in plumage coloration by prebreeding moult, abrasion of cryptic feather tips, or both. Seasonal dichromatism is thought to result from optimizing coloration to the conflicting demands of different life-cycle periods, sexual selection for conspicuousness being substantial during the mating season, whereas selection for camouflage and for social signals may act in all seasons. Furthermore, energetic and time demands may constrain the extent of moult, thereby limiting colour change. We investigated the relative importance of several factors in shaping this variation in a songbird clade using phylogenetic comparative methods. We found that prebreeding moult relates most strongly to breeding onset and winter diet, demonstrating that both time and food availability constrain feather replacement. Feather abrasion was best predicted by winter flocking behaviour, and secondarily by open habitats, implying that exposure to predators and the simultaneous need for social signalling may favour the expression of partially obscured ornaments in the non-breeding season. The combined occurrence of prebreeding moult and feather abrasion was associated with the polygynous mating system, suggesting that species under strong sexual selection may employ both strategies of colour change to ensure the full expression of breeding coloration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-721
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume94
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

Fingerprint

Feathers
molt
feather
abrasion
feathers
molting
comparative study
Color
color
sexual selection
Breeding
breeding
Songbirds
songbird
plumage
winter
Life Cycle Stages
food availability
reproductive strategy
Birds

Keywords

  • Moult constraints
  • Plumage coloration
  • Predation risk
  • Sexual selection
  • Social signalling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Seasonal colour change by moult or by the abrasion of feather tips : A comparative study. / Tökölyi, Jácint; Bókony, V.; Barta, Z.

In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 94, No. 4, 08.2008, p. 711-721.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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