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Plumage ornaments and oxidative stress in the Pied Flycatcher

A key aspect in the study of plumage traits with a potential role in communication is the cost associated with trait production and maintenance, expressed in terms of oxidative stress. In the Iberian Pied Flycatcher, males and some females exhibit a white forehead patch and both sexes present conspicuous white patches on the wings. The association between these plumage ornaments and individual ability to cope with oxidative stress was analyzed. In males, achromatic ornaments were negatively associated with oxidative damage. In females, plumage ornamentation was negatively associated to antioxidant defenses during incubation, but positively during the nestling period. Female oxidative stress was positively related to the time dedicated to incubate and attending the clutch. These results indicate that multiple achromatic plumage ornaments may signal the individual capacity to cope with costs related to oxidative stress. Moreover, this study highlights the critical role of incubation for avian life histories.

The results of this research have been published in the journal Canadian Journal of Zoology, within an article signed by Jimena López-Arrabé, Alejandro Cantarero, Lorenzo Pérez-Rodríguez, Antonio Palma y Juan Moreno, entitled “Plumage ornaments and reproductive investment in relation to oxidative status in the Iberian Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca iberiae)". The PDF is available on the left-side panel of this page.




  • Head patch in a male Pied Flycatcher (Photo: J. López-Arrabé)
  • Wing patches of a male Pied Flycatcher (Photo: J. López-Arrabé)