Plumage brightness predicts non‐breeding season territory quality in a long‐distance migratory songbird, the American redstart Setophaga ruticilla
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Type of Work8 pages
Citation of Original PublicationMatthew W. Reudink, Colin E. Studds, Peter P. Marra, T. Kurt Kyser, Laurene M. Ratcliffe, Plumage brightness predicts non‐breeding season territory quality in a long‐distance migratory songbird, the American redstart Setophaga ruticilla, Avian Biology, Volume40, Issue1 January 2009 Pages 34-41, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04377.x
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Many species of birds exhibit brilliant ornamental plumage, yet most research on the function and evolution of plumage has been confined to the breeding season. In the American redstart Setophaga ruticilla, a long‐distance Neotropical‐Nearctic migratory bird, the acquisition of a winter territory in high‐quality habitat advances spring departure and subsequent arrival on breeding areas, and increases reproductive success and annual survival. Here, we show that males holding winter territories in high‐quality, black mangrove habitats in Jamaica have brighter yellow‐orange tail feathers than males occupying territories in poor‐quality second‐growth scrub habitats. Moreover, males arriving on the breeding grounds from higher‐quality winter habitats (inferred by stable‐carbon isotopes) also had brighter tail feathers. Because behavioral dominance plays an important role in the acquisition of winter territories, plumage brightness may also be related to fighting ability and the acquisition and maintenance of territories in high‐quality habitat. These results highlight the need for further research on the relationships between plumage coloration, behavior, and the ecology of over‐wintering migratory birds.
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