About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Female Birds Aren’t So Dull After All

Why are female birds usually a duller version of their male counterpart? Darwin thought that through natural selection males became showier and more colorful over the years to attract mates. In a recent study, biology researchers J. Jordan Price of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Muir Eaton of Drake University provide evidence that just the opposite is true. Females used to be colorful like males but the duller, camouflaged females survived more often to pass on their genes.

“What’s often assumed is that sexual selection operates mainly on male appearance, and the result is that males then look different from females,” said Eaton. “Our results strongly suggest the opposite. Females, with their dull colors, are under strong natural selection to not stand out, thus they look very different from males. Perhaps this is because they spend more time on or near the nest and must be inconspicuous.”

Eaton also noted that the color differences in male and female birds go beyond what the human eye can see. “Our use of objective measurements of feather coloration, and quantification of color differences from the perspective of how birds see color differences, allowed us to uncover these complex evolutionary patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed,” he said. 
The study, entitled “Reconstructing the Evolution of Sexual Dichromatism: Current Color Diversity Does Not Reflect Past Rates of Male and Female Change," is available online today in the journal Evolution.

Read the study: http://goo.gl/jyI4dy

Related Articles:
- Sexually dimorphic Northern Cardinals: http://goo.gl/9ynLSf
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw
- What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://bit.ly/v0IBhS  
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV