Bright birds are cautious: seasonally conspicuous plumage prompts risk avoidance by male superb fairy-wrens

Date

2017

Authors

McQueen, Alexandra
Naimo, Annalise C.
Teunissen, Niki
Magrath, Robert
Delhey, Kaspar
Peters, Anne

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Royal Society of London

Abstract

Increased predation risk is considered a cost of having conspicuous colours, affecting the anti-predator behaviour of colourful animals. However, this is difficult to test, as individual factors often covary with colour and behaviour. We used alarm call playback and behavioural observations to assess whether individual birds adjust their response to risk according to their plumage colour. Male superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) change from a dull brown to conspicuous blue plumage each year, allowing the behaviour of different coloured birds to be compared while controlling for withinin-dividual effects. Because the timing of colour change varies among males, blue and brown birds can also be compared at the same time of year, controlling for seasonal effects on behaviour. While blue, fairy-wrens fled more often in response to alarm calls, and took longer to emerge from cover. Blue fairy-wrens also spent more time foraging in cover and being vigilant. Group members appeared to benefit from the presence of blue males, as they reduced their response to alarms, and allocated less time to sentinel behaviour when a blue male was close by. We suggest that fairy-wrens perceive themselves to be at a higher risk of predation while in conspicuous plumage and adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Description

Keywords

alarm call, anti-predator, colour, conspicuous,, playback, predation

Citation

Source

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences

Type

Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights

DOI

10.1098/rspb.2017.0446

Restricted until

2099-12-31