Acquisition of breeding coloration depends on badge size in male house sparrows Passer domesticus

  • Møller A
  • Erritzøe J
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Abstract

The black throat "badge" of the male house sparrow Passer domesticus, which functions as a status signal of dominance rank, changes in size during late winter because light feather tips gradually wear off. Males change the size of their visible badge earlier if their final badge size is large. The differential timing of the change from winter to breeding coloration in relation to badge size is partially controlled by the behaviour of the individual male. Feather abrasion of the badge is mainly due to preening and dust bathing. During late winter, male house sparrows preen the badge area more than females preen the homologous area, and males with large badges preen more than males with small badges. The seasonal change in size of the visible badge of male house sparrows may reflect the balance of different selection pressures. A large badge size signals dominance status in autumn and winter prediation by visually searching avian predators may constitute the main opposing selection pressure. Sexual selection causes a stronger selection pressure for a large badge in spring and summer.

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Authors

  • A. P. Møller

  • J. Erritzøe

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