ABS 2022
What do differences in feather color and brightness tell us about Great Tits?
Madisen Brown, Michael Reichert, Clarrisa Gottfried, Rachel Atherton. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, United States

Feather color varies greatly among and within species of birds. It is important to determine the relationships between feather coloration and other traits in order to reveal how feathers might be used for communication. We analyzed the relationships between feather color and brightness of Great Tits and characteristics related to reproduction, morphology, and cognition. With a uniquely large sample size, including repeated data collection from the same individuals over a span of several years, we examined how feather color and brightness are related to reproduction, morphology, and cognition both at the population level and at the individual level over time. Predictably, feather brightness was correlated with sex and age. There were no significant relationships between feather color traits and past, present, or future reproductive success. Feather color traits were not significantly repeatable, suggesting a strong dependence on environmental variation. We did find a significant relationship between both feather color and brightness and skull and beak size, which suggests that feather color and brightness are related to cognitive ability and foraging behavior.