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Informative content of melanin-based plumage colour in adult Eurasian kestrels


  • Deseada Parejo,

  • Nadia Silva,

  • Étienne Danchin,

  • Jesús M. Avilés

D. Parejo ( and J. M. Avilés, Dept of Funct. and Evol. Ecol., Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, CSIC, C/ General Segura 1, 04001 Almería, Spain. – N. Silva and É. Danchin, Laboratoire Évol. et Div. Biol., UMR CNRS-UPS 5174, Univ. Paul Sabatier-Toulouse III, 118 Route de Narbonne Bât. IV R3 - b2, 31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France.


Covariation between melanin-based colorations and other phenotypic attributes has been rarely measured simultaneously in males and females. Such covariations and mechanisms mediating them have crucial importance determining the signalling function of these coloured ornaments in the two sexes. We examined the role of four melanin-based coloured plumage patches as indicators of quality in both males and females of the sexually dimorphic and dichromatic Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Previous kestrel studies have focused on the size of melanin plumage patches in either males or females as indicators of individual quality. Here, we used spectrophotometric measurements of three plumage patches and the size of another plumage patch to investigate the information content of multiple plumage colour traits in male and female kestrels. We found that females with bright plumage in the head and with high UV chroma in black parts of the rump showed good body condition and innate immunity. In addition, laying date was significantly explained by the intensity of the brown in the head of females. Meanwhile, in males we only found that individuals with greyer rumps showed better innate immunity. Altogether, our results indicate that, irrespective of the mechanism promoting covariation between coloration and individual quality, melanin-based coloration can inform on individual quality in adult kestrels.

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