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Abstract

Males of many animal species express ornaments that affect their reproduction opportunities through male–male competition or female mate choice. Such ornaments can, for example, inform conspecifics about the fighting ability, condition or territory ownership of the bearer. Pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) males have a conspicuous white forehead patch that varies greatly in size. We examined whether the white forehead patch is an intrasexually selected trait in a Finnish population. We artificially manipulated forehead patch size to represent two naturally occurring extremes and competed males against each other in the presence of a female. Males with a large forehead patch were more aggressive than males with a small patch, whereas the original patch size of the male had no influence on aggression. Neither manipulated nor original patch size influenced resource dominance (over female or nest box). These results indicate that forehead patch signals fighting ability of the bearer in the pied flycatcher. The next step is to find out what kind of costs may maintain the honesty of this signal.