As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sexual selection not the last word on bird plumage

Among birds the world over, natural selection - during migration, breeding in subtropical locales and care of young - is as powerful as sexual selection, researchers have found.

Looking at nearly 1,000 species of birds, the team from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that while males often have brighter feathers than females, the two sexes have come closer together in colour over time to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators.

"Our study shows that ecology and behaviour are driving the colour of both sexes, and it is not due to sexual selection," said Peter Dunn and Linda Whittingham, professors of biological sciences at UW-Milwaukee.

Although most studies of bird plumage focus on dichromatism, evolutionary change has most often led to similar, rather than different, plumage in males and females, the authors wrote in the journal Science Advances.

The team spent four years collecting data from 977 species of birds from six museums in the US and Australia.

They analysed the data, assigning each bird a colour score based on scales of brightness and hue.

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