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Do Male Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) Adjust Their Feeding Effort According to Egg Colour?


Arild Johnsen, National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1172 Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway.


The colour of blue-green bird eggs has been hypothesized to signal female quality to attending males, who may adjust their level of investment in the brood accordingly. The hypothesis has gained support in studies of Spanish pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca. We performed a cross-fostering experiment in a Norwegian population of pied flycatchers to provide an independent test of the sexually selected egg colour hypothesis in this species. Egg colour was not significantly correlated with estimates of female quality (clutch size, average egg volume, first egg laying date and feeding rate). There was a significant decrease in chroma and increase in brightness and egg volume during the laying sequence, with some marked differences between six-egg and seven-egg clutches that might reflect differences in female quality. However, we found no significant influence of egg colour (foster or original clutch) on male feeding rate or offspring viability (hatching success, average mass and fledging success) and no significant difference in feeding rate for males with six-egg and seven-egg foster or original clutches. We conclude that Norwegian male pied flycatchers do not use egg colour as a cue to female quality, thus questioning the generality of previous support for the sexually selected egg colour hypothesis from this species.