Better looking birds have more help at home with their chicks

Jun 25, 2012
In choosing a mate both males and females rely on visual cues to determine which potential partner will supply the best genes, best nesting site, best territory, and best parenting skills. Credit: Katharina Mahr

In choosing a mate both males and females rely on visual cues to determine which potential partner will supply the best genes, best nesting site, best territory, and best parenting skills. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology shows that male blue tits' (Cyanistes caeruleus) parental behavior is determined by female ornamentation (ultraviolet coloration of the crown), as predicted by the differential allocation hypothesis (DAH).

DAH makes the assumption that aesthetic traits indicate quality and arises from the needs of a parent's current need to ensure current and the reproductive success of their offspring. and its maintenance is a cost which reduces energy available for reproduction, but without the ornamentation an individual may not be able to secure a mate. Ornamentation also plays a role in competition between males and between females, as well as signaling potential reproductive success.

But reproductive success does not only depend on the best genes and the best nest, it also depends on . Researchers from Konrad Lorenz Institute of , supported by the "Sparkling-Science" Program, investigated the effect of female ornamentation on the chick-rearing behavior of their mates. Both males and female blue tits have feathers on the top of their heads which reflect UV light. After their chicks had hatched, female blue tits were captured and their crowns smeared with either duck preen gland oil containing UV-blocking chemicals or the oil alone.

Although the UV-blocking chemicals did not alter the behavior of the females, their mates made fewer hunting trips to feed their brood. However the males made the same effort to protect their nest and defend their chicks as males with oil-only treated females.

Dr Matteo Griggio, co-author of this study, commented, "This is the first study to show that male blue tit behavior depends on female ornamentation. Even though our experiment was minimally invasive to avoid partners not being able to recognize each other, the behavior of male blue tits in this study matched the DAH. DAH also predicts that less attractive females should increase their parental investment but we found no compensatory female behavior."

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Related Stories

Discerning males remain faithful

Apr 24, 2012

Discerning males remain faithful ... if you are a spider. Sex for male orb web spiders (Argiope bruennichi) is a two shot affair since the act of mating destroys their genitalia. If they survive being eaten ...

'Paranoia' about rivals alters insect mating behavior

Aug 08, 2011

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that male fruitflies experience a type of 'paranoia' in the presence of another male, which doubles the length of time they mate with a female, despite the female of the ...

Ugly Betty forced to aim for Average Joe

Aug 26, 2010

Less-pretty female house sparrows tend to lower their aim when selecting a mate. Addressing the lack of studies on condition-dependency of female mate choice, researchers writing in the open access journal ...

Parents seeking sex abandon 1 in 3 offspring

Jul 30, 2007

The eggs of the penduline tit Remiz pendulinus are frequently abandoned as both parents go in search of new sexual conquests, a study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology has found.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.