Friday 6 Nov 2015 7:27 p.m.
Colourful plumage in male birds is not an exclusive characteristic just to attract a mate, but is linked to social and lifestyle factors, says a Massey University study published yesterday.
"A shortfall of the classical sexual selection theory is that it works so well at explaining colourful plumage in males that the rest of the variation is often forgotten about," said the study's lead author James Dale.
The study, published in science journal Nature, examined the colouration in around 6000 species of passerine birds – more commonly known as 'songbirds' – which make up around half of all bird species.
The researchers found colour is important in terms of individual competition and not just restricted to males.
Many bird species have males displaying brighter and more colourful feathers than the females, who have darker, duller plumage – a characteristic that has been attributed to the need to compete to find a partner to mate and procreate with.