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Ontogenetic variation in the plumage colour of female European Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca

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Abstract

Although variation in the dorsal plumage colour of male European Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca has received a great deal of attention, females of the species have been usually considered to be nearly uniformly monochromatic brown. Using reflectance spectrophotometry, we explore the age-dependent variation of plumage colour in females. We disentangle the within- and between-individual effects of this pattern and show a within-individual darkening of the mantle colour with age, whereas differences between individuals in structural colour expression may underlie the trend for a more reflective white in the females' breast plumage with advancing age. The darkening of the dorsal plumage as females age reflects the most common pattern of age-related variation in males in most European populations of the species.

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