Editor´s choice - Sexual pigmentation and parental risk-taking in yellow warblers

Submitted by Johan on 17 February 2015.

Increased perceived predation risk during breeding is predicted to reduce parental effort as such behaviours often are conspicuous and are traded off against vigilance. Predation risk might be particularly high for highly ornamented males, with the prediction that such males should decrease parental effort more than duller conspecific males.

This prediction was tested by Grunst et al. in a recent very interesting paper in J. Avian Biol. They found that yellow warbler males reduced feeding frequency when a taxidermic hawk was presented close to the nest. However, most interestingly this reduction was most pronounced at the most exposed nests and especially so among brightly coloured males. Thus, intense pigmented males seem to be able to judge their risk of predation both in relation to nest concealment and to their own conspicuousness. Females of highly ornamented males may therefore run the risk of less paternal effort when predation risk is high and nests have low concealment.

Jan-Åke Nilsson, Editor in chief

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Editor´s Choice