The Influence of Carotenoid Acquisition and Utilization on the Maintenance of Species‐Typical Plumage Pigmentation in Male American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)

  title={The Influence of Carotenoid Acquisition and Utilization on the Maintenance of Species‐Typical Plumage Pigmentation in Male American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)},
  author={Kevin J. McGraw and Geoffrey E. Hill and Riccardo Stradi and Robert S. Parker},
  journal={Physiological and Biochemical Zoology},
  pages={843 - 852}
Birds display a tremendous variety of carotenoid‐based colors in their plumage, but the mechanisms underlying interspecific variability in carotenoid pigmentation remain poorly understood. Because vertebrates cannot synthesize carotenoids de novo, access to pigments in the diet is one proximate factor that may shape species differences in carotenoid‐based plumage coloration. However, some birds metabolize ingested carotenoids and deposit pigments that differ in color from their dietary… 

Carotenoid access and intraspecific variation in plumage pigmentation in male American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The results suggest that carotenoid-based plumage variation in male goldfinches and cardinals is less sensitive to pigment availability in the diet than colour variation observed in other studied taxa.

Interspecific variation in dietary carotenoid assimilation in birds: links to phylogeny and color ornamentation.

  • K. McGraw
  • Biology, Environmental Science
    Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part B, Biochemistry & molecular biology
  • 2005


Investigating carotenoid pigments present in the feathers of an aberrantly colored yellow Northern Cardinal to determine how metabolic pathways may have been altered found this genetic mutation did not broadly disrupt all metabolic activity, but specifically impaired only one class of metabolic reactions and its associated enzymes.

Differential Accumulation and Pigmenting Ability of Dietary Carotenoids in Colorful Finches

Zeaxanthin is preferentially accumulated in the body and serves as a more potent substrate for pigmentation than lutein in these finches, demonstrating that zeaxanthine plays unique roles in shaping the ultimate color expression of individuals.

Lutein-based plumage coloration in songbirds is a consequence of selective pigment incorporation into feathers.

The effect of dietary carotenoid access on sexual dichromatism and plumage pigment composition in the American goldfinch.

Carotenoid pigments in male American goldfinches: what is the optimal biochemical strategy for becoming colourful?

The results indicate that the types of dietary carotenoids available across seasons do not change in American goldfinches, and that the best biochemical strategy for becoming a colourful, wild male goldfinch is to accumulate as many dietary/blood pigments as possible during moult.

Carotenoid‐Based Plumage Coloration Predicts Leukocyte Parameters during the Breeding Season in Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The finding that carotenoid pigmentation is positively associated in males with the size of the cloacal protuberance, an androgen-sensitive sex character, supports the hypothesis that the more saturated individuals increase their risk of injury, stress, and infection by engaging in more competitive behavior or by secreting more testosterone.

Differential ability of carotenoid C4-oxygenation in yellow and red bishop species (Euplectes spp.).

Assortative mating by carotenoid-based plumage colour: a quality indicator in American goldfinches, Carduelis tristis

It is argued that the yellow carotenoid coloration of goldfinches may be important in mutual mate choice and, thus, that sexual selection in this species may act upon female ornamentation, as well as the more obvious plumage signals of males.



Metabolism of carotenoid pigments in birds

  • A. Brush
  • Biology
    FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
  • 1990
Understanding the processes has advanced with the introduction of high‐resolution separation techniques and the ability to determine both conformation and absolute configuration, and the next steps will be in the direction of understanding the enzymatic modification, transport, and tissue selectivity of feather carotenoids.

Carotenoids in bird plumage: the complement of red pigments in the plumage of wild and captive bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).

  • R. StradiE. PiniG. Celentano
  • Biology, Environmental Science
    Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part B, Biochemistry & molecular biology
  • 2001


Improved analytical techniques were used to describe types and amounts of carotenoid pigments present in male House Finches' plumage, and a distinctive pigment profile for each age group within each subspecies was found.

Proximate basis of variation in carotenoid pigmentation in male house finches

Captive males converged on a similar appearance after completing prebasic molt on a standardized diet, with significantly less variance in coloration than is found among wild males, and there was a significant positive correlation between patch size and plumage brightness.

Differential effects of endoparasitism on the expression of carotenoid- and melanin-based ornamental coloration

  • K. McGrawG. Hill
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2000
It is found that the carotenoid–based plumage and bill coloration of parasitized males was less saturated than that developed by unparasitized males, but that the brightness and size of melanin–based black caps did not differ between the groups.

Carotenoids in Bird Plumage: The Pattern in a Series of Red-Pigmented Carduelinae

Carotenoid availability and plumage coloration in a wild population of Northern Cardinals

Changes in the size and content of the sperm storage tubules during the breeding cycle of the Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata and the Pied Flycatcher are studied.

Plumage Pigment Differences in Manakins of the Pipra Erythrocephala Superspecies

The probable origin of the Latin misnomer for the Golden-headed Manakin is revealed and its relationship to the mechanisms responsible for the species-specific differences in manakin coloration is suggested.