Fecundity selection on ornamental plumage colour differs between ages and sexes and varies over small spatial scales.
Parker TH., Wilkin TA., Barr IR., Sheldon BC., Rowe L., Griffith SC.
Avian plumage colours are some of the most conspicuous sexual ornaments, and yet standardized selection gradients for plumage colour have rarely been quantified. We examined patterns of fecundity selection on plumage colour in blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus L.). When not accounting for environmental heterogeneity, we detected relatively few cases of selection. We found significant disruptive selection on adult male crown colour and yearling female chest colour and marginally nonsignificant positive linear selection on adult female crown colour. We discovered no new significant selection gradients with canonical rotation of the matrix of nonlinear selection. Next, using a long-term data set, we identified territory-level environmental variables that predicted fecundity to determine whether these variables influenced patterns of plumage selection. The first of these variables, the density of oaks within 50 m of the nest, influenced selection gradients only for yearling males. The second variable, an inverse function of nesting density, interacted with a subset of plumage selection gradients for yearling males and adult females, although the strength and direction of selection did not vary predictably with population density across these analyses. Overall, fecundity selection on plumage colour in blue tits appeared rare and inconsistent among sexes and age classes.