Female hummingbirds that look like males face less social harassment: Study
Female hummingbirds typically have muted feathers, but a study published Thursday in Current Biology found that about 20% of female White-necked Jacobins have bright feathers – like their male counterparts – which protects them from social harassment.
Young birds are frequently born with female feather coloration, but in the case of this hummingbird species, they are born looking like males, according to study author Jay Falk, who worked as a doctoral student at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute during this study.
He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Experiments by the researchers revealed that the flashy male-like garb helped females avoid aggressive male behaviours during feeding, such as pecking and body slamming.
The researchers discovered that all of the young or juvenile Jacobins had bright colours when they examined the captured birds.
In most bird species, juvenile birds resemble the corresponding sex of adult birds.
The ornamental, flashy plumage of many species is thought to have evolved as a result of mate competition.
When the females were sexually mature and looking for mates, however, the majority of them lost their colourful plumage, indicating that so-called sexual selection was not the cause.