No evidence for general condition-dependence of structural plumage colour in blue tits: an experiment

A. Peters, R.H.J.M. Kurvers, M.L. Roberts, K. Delhey

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42 Citations (Scopus)


Condition-dependence is a central but contentious tenet of evolutionary theories on the maintenance of ornamental traits, and this is particularly true for structural plumage colour. By providing diets of different nutritional quality to moulting male and female blue tits, we experimentally manipulated general condition within the natural range, avoiding deprivation or stressful treatments. We measured reflectance of the structural-coloured UV/blue crown, a sexually selected trait in males, and the white cheek, a nonpigmented structural colour, directly after moult and again during the following spring mating season. We employed a variety of colour indices, based on spectral shape and avian visual models but, despite significant variation in condition and coloration, found no evidence for condition-dependence of UV/blue or white plumage colour during either season. These and previously published results suggest that structural colour might be sensitive to stress, rather than reduced body condition, during moult.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)976-987
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • white-crowned sparrows
  • melanin-based coloration
  • bluebirds sialia-sialis
  • male uv attractiveness
  • parus-caeruleus
  • sexual selection
  • cyanistes-caeruleus
  • feather growth
  • satin bowerbirds
  • postnuptial molt


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