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Abstract

There is growing evidence that female mate choice could be based on a combination of multiple signals that often involve both ornamental colourful traits and behavioural displays. The Diamond Firetail is an Australian finch with a variable number of white spots on their black flank feathers. The number of white spots is a dimorphic characteristic: females have more spots than males, and males prefer females with many spots. Previously, we found assortative pairing for spot number despite the absence of experimental evidence for female preference for male spot number. Here, we test whether the male behavioural courtship display (bobbing while waving a grass stem) correlates with male spot number and pairing success. We also test whether male spot number predicts the outcome (winner or loser) of intrasexual competition over courtship materials (grass stem, perch, nest site). Males with many spots had higher pairing success, and male spot number correlated with the intensity of courtship display. In a multivariate statistical analysis, male courtship display was the stronger predictor of male pairing success. Finally, male spot number predicted the outcome of intrasexual interactions: males with many spots consistently won contests over grass stems, perches and nest sites. We suggest that intrasexual selection could favour male spot number, whereas courtship intensity appears to be under stronger intersexual selection.