Multiple Ornaments in Male Northern Cardinals, Cardinalis cardinalis, as Indicators of Condition


Jodie M. Jawor, Department of Biology, Indiana University, 1001 E. Third St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. E-mail:


Investigations of male ornaments in the context of sexual selection have tended to focus on single ornaments, although many species of birds possess multiple ornaments. Understanding the evolution of multiple ornaments requires knowledge of correlations among ornaments in the same individual and the extent to which ornament expression reflects individual condition and behavior. Variation in four male ornaments in socially monogamous, biparental northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) was related to body size, indices of condition, level of paternal care, and reproductive success. Redness of breast plumage positively predicted body size and negatively predicted nestling feeding rate. Bill color predicted current body condition, with birds with redder bills in better condition. Birds with smaller black face masks had greater reproductive success. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that different ornaments in male cardinals provide information on different aspects of condition and behavior.