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.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Redheads go blonde to see what happens

When you watch the cardinals at the feeders, do you notice little scuffles between males for dominance? Does their red coloration function as a signal of status? What if a redhead went blonde for a season? Would they drop in the pecking order?

One study done by L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger at Cornell University 1998 captured 30 male Northern Cardinal birds with a similar red coloration and 1/3 were given a Clairol Professional “Torch Crimson” treatment to deepen their red color, 1/3 were lightened with an “Ultra Blonde” treatment and 1/3 were left the same color.

A cardinal goes through one full molt in the fall, and their health, and how well they are eating determines how red their plumage will be for the following year. The redder cardinals are usually the more dominant birds.

The researchers wanted to know what happens if you take cardinals all the same shade of red and make some lighter and some darker. Released the next day after their male beauty treatments, the scientists observed to see if color played a roll in dominance during the non-breeding season.

The results found it didn’t affect their behavior. Birds that are redder naturally are probably in better health, more experienced and better foragers than duller birds and are more dominant naturally. The false redder heads didn’t take advantage of their new coloring to control food resources. Both the falsely brighter and duller birds acted in accordance with their true coloring.

Source: Is Red Coloration of Male Northern Cardinals Beneficial during the Nonbreeding Season?: A Test of the Status Signaling https://search.unm.edu/ 

Related Articles:
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj 

Why male and female cardinals are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
Bald Cardinals http://bit.ly/rvl06F
Why birds molt http://bit.ly/qz4yGE
Types of Bird feathers http://bit.ly/oTXSmm

No comments: