Artificial ornaments manipulate intrinsic male quality in wild-caught zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

Emma C. Pariser, Mylene M. Mariette, Simon C. Griffith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The addition of red and green color bands is a commonly used method for manipulating male attractiveness in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), providing insight into the study of maternal investment and sexual selection. The addition of artificial ornaments has been assumed to manipulate a females' perception of the male, rather than affecting intrinsic qualities of the male himself. Here, however, we reveal that the artificial band color worn by a male changes his body mass, condition, and courtship display rate. Males wearing red color bands in aviaries prior to mate-choice trials had a significantly higher song rate during trials than those wearing green color bands, alongside a significant increase in mass change and condition. Male song rate was found to significantly correlate with female preference alongside a female preference for red-banded males. However, male song rate in turn increased when female response was positive, suggesting a social feedback between the interacting birds. Our data suggest the presence of socially mediated feedback mechanisms whereby the artificial increase in attractiveness or dominance of a male directly affects other aspects of his attractiveness. Therefore, housing birds in social groups while manipulating attractiveness can directly influence other male qualities and should be accounted for by future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-269
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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