Ornamental non-carotenoid red feathers of wild burrowing parrots

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Abstract

Bird plumage colors have the potential to indicate individual quality, condition, health, immunocompetence, or the extend of parental care. Color intensity of feathers has been found to correlate with parameters of individual quality, condition, parental care and breeding success. Psittaciformes are well known for their colorful plumage but the significance of parrot coloration is still poorly understood. Red colors are very common in many parrot species. They are produced by at least four non-carotenoid-based pigments (linear polyenal structure). In the present study, we investigated a collection of red abdominal feathers of a marked population of wild Burrowing Parrots Cyanoliseus patagonus in Patagonia, Argentina. The aims of this study were to investigate the ecological significance of the recently described non-carotenoid-based red pigments of Psittaciformes, and the relationships between objectively assessed plumage color and body size, body condition, breeding success and nestling growth in wild Psittaciformes. We found that sexes differed in plumage coloration (sexual dichromatism), that plumage color was a good predictor of female body condition and male size, and we identified the red coloration of the abdominal patch as a signal of individual quality and parental investment.

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