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The carotenoid-based plumage coloration of adult Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus correlates with the health status of their brood

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The Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus is a passerine bird in which both sexes provide substantial care to the offspring and display conspicuous carotenoid-based plumage coloration. It has been shown that carotenoid-based coloration in birds reflects both individual quality and foraging ability. Because the body condition of nestlings usually depends on the capacity of their parents to feed them, I predicted that, independent of sex, those individuals with the most exaggerated carotenoid-based plumage coloration should raise offspring in better health. I found that although, in my study population, the smallest females were paired with the largest males, the brightest females were paired with the brightest and most intensely coloured males. I used body condition and T-cell-mediated immune response of nestlings as measures of their health status. Generalized mixed models showed that brighter and more-yellow adults reared offspring in better than average condition and immune response. Older males and smaller females were also able to raise offspring with better immune response. All these results suggest that the carotenoid-based plumage coloration of parents is somehow linked with individual quality, as it presents a significant and positive correlation with the health status of their growing chicks. Thus, the brightest and more intensely coloured individuals raised the healthiest offspring.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-10-01

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