Cosmetic Coloration in Birds: Occurrence, Function, and Evolution

  title={Cosmetic Coloration in Birds: Occurrence, Function, and Evolution},
  author={Kaspar Delhey and Anne Peters and Bart Kempenaers},
  journal={The American Naturalist},
  pages={S145 - S158}
Colorful plumages are conspicuous social signals in birds, and the expression of these colors often reflects the quality of their bearers. Since mature feathers are dead structures, plumage color is often considered a static signal that does not change after molt. Feathers, however, can and do deteriorate between molts, and birds need to invest heavily in plumage maintenance. Here we argue that this need for preserving plumage condition and hence signaling content might have given rise to a… 
Cosmetic enhancement of signal coloration: experimental evidence in the house finch
It is found that red feathers of control males were more colorful than those of experimental males and that applying waxes to museum skins' red feathers increased their color saturation, thus revealing the existence of novel mechanisms operating in signaling coloration.
Natural soiling has a small effect on structurally-based plumage coloration
The results suggest that the impact of natural feather soiling is not likely to modify structural coloration signaling, and one possible explanation is that the amount of soil accumulating on feathers is too small to affect coloration.
Made-up mouths with preen oil reveal genetic and phenotypic conditions of starling nestlings
It is suggested that the cosmetic use of colored uropygial secretion might also play a role in parent-offspring communication, complementing or amplifying information provided by the flamboyant colored gapes and skin of nestlings.
Male fairy-wrens produce and maintain vibrant breeding colors irrespective of individual quality
It is concluded that variation in structural breeding colors is unlikely to indicate individual quality in superb fairy-wrens, and males keep their colors in pristine condition by re-molting parts of their breeding plumage throughout the breeding season, suggesting an alternative, potential cost of maintaining ornamental colors.
Hidden carotenoids in the powder down of herons
AbstractVivid plumage colors are some of the best examples of elaborate trait evolution resulting from sexual selection. Bird feathers often contain high concentrations of pigment or intricate
The color of greater flamingo feathers fades when no cosmetics are applied
Exposure to sunlight is correlated with the fading of feather color, which suggests that individuals need to regularly apply makeup to be more colorful, and reinforces the view that flamingos use cosmetic coloration as a signal amplifier of plumage color.
Seasonal Changes in Colour: A Comparison of Structural, Melanin- and Carotenoid-Based Plumage Colours
Changes of plumage coloration independent of moult are probably widespread; they should be perceivable by birds and have the potential to affect colour signalling.
Uropygial gland and bib colouration in the house sparrow
It is shown that bib colouration is related to uropygial gland size and body condition in male house sparrows (Passer domesticus), and cosmetic preen oil that alters the colouration of their bibs is produced, suggesting bib Colouration has the potential to signal current health status.
Elemental Analysis of Various Feathers of Indian Rose Ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
The metal composition in different parts of the feathers of Indian parakeet (Psittacula krameri) which shows variation in coloration throughout the body is investigated by XRD and the possible role of various metals in different part of the Indian rose-ringed parakeets is described.
Lighting policies as part of a preventive strategy for feather collections in museums often do not consider the different colorant systems found in the feathers, and studies reviewed indicate that pigment-based color and structural color do not have the same light sensitivity, with pigment color being more sensitive.


Plumage colour signals nutritional condition in the house finch
  • G. Hill, R. Montgomerie
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 1994
Observations provide support for the hypothesis that carotenoid-based plumage coloration is an indicator of nutritional condition during moult, which may arise from differences among individuals in either their foraging ability or their health.
Plumage colour in nestling blue tits: sexual dichromatism, condition dependence and genetic effects
It is concluded that the expression of both carotenoid–based and structural coloration seems to be condition dependent in blue tit nestlings, and that there are additional genetic effects on the hue of the UV/blue tail feathers.
Structural and melanin coloration indicate parental effort and reproductive success in male eastern bluebirds
It is found that males with larger breast patches and brighter plumage provisioned nestlings more often, fledged heavier offspring, and paired with females that nested earlier, suggesting that plumage coloration is a reliable indicator of male mate quality and reproductive success.
Different colors reveal different information: how nutritional stress affects the expression of melanin- and structurally based ornamental plumage.
Melanin ornaments are less sensitive to nutritional conditions during molt and instead may reflect the hormonal status and/or competitive ability of males, whereas structural coloration appears to be an accurate signal of health and condition.
It is demonstrated that the color diversity of melanin ornaments is quite broad, including red, orange, yellow, and green, in addition to black and brown, and it is perhaps incorrectly assumed that melaninOrnaments are typically black or blackish-brown and thus show both less variation within species and less diversity across species than do carotenoids.
The Value of Immaculate Mates: Relationships between Plumage Quality and Breeding Success in Shelducks
It is suggested that plumage immaculateness indicates the ability to establish and maintain control over the best breeding sites and feeding territories in the face of competition with other shelducks.
Bacteria as an Agent for Change in Structural Plumage Color: Correlational and Experimental Evidence
It is found that keratinolytic bacteria increased the brightness and purity, decreased the ultraviolet chroma, and did not affect the hue of structural color, suggesting that bacteria can alter structural plumage color through degradation.
Plumage color as a dynamic trait: carotenoid pigmentation of male house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) fades during the breeding season
It is found that the hue of feathers faded significantly over the season, and researchers should more carefully track plum - age color expression during the course of a year, as seasonal color shifts may have important consequences for late- season male-male competitive interactions and flexible female mating tactics.
Elaborate ornaments are costly to maintain: evidence for high maintenance handicaps
It is suggested that high maintenance handicaps are present in a variety of animals because of the time and energy required to maintain them in good condition.
Avian Plumages and Molts
The primary function of feathers is flight, but th'ey also insulate and protect the body from the physical environment. The reptilian scales from which they evolved have this as their principal