Variation in effects of male plumage ornaments: the case of Iberian Pied Flycatchers
It has been proposed that mate preferences by female Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca differ between southern (Iberian) and northern (Scandinavian) European populations. Whereas the size of the white forehead patch, but not plumage colour, has been reported to be a sexually selected trait in the former, only plumage darkness apparently acts as an ornament in the latter. In addition, northern male Pied Flycatchers become darker with age, a trend not detected until the present study in southern birds. Here we show that in an Iberian population of Pied Flycatchers breeding only a few tens of kilometres from previously studied populations, plumage darkness is associated with mating success and increases with age, whereas the size of the white forehead patch is not related to mating success and is only weakly correlated with age, trends similar to those reported for Scandinavian rather than other Iberian Pied Flycatcher populations. This represents a case of variation in sexually selected traits between geographically close populations of Pied Flycatchers that cannot be explained by sympatry with closely related species. It is proposed that differences in the identity and abundance of environmental stressors may be the cause of this regional variation in sexually selected traits.