Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The more feathers a male sparrow carries to the nest, the more eggs the female will lay

Date:
May 7, 2013
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
A new study has found that female sparrows will invest more energy into laying eggs according to the male's ability to fill the nest with feathers which serve to insulate the chicks from the cold and keep them alive.

An international team lead by the University of Granada has found that female sparrows will invest more energy into laying eggs according to the male's ability to fill the nest with feathers which serve to insulate the chicks from the cold and keep them alive.

Scientists from the University of Granada, in collaboration with the South African University of the Witwatersrand and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town, have discovered that the female house sparrow (Passer domesticus) invests more energy into laying eggs when the male brings more feathers to the nest.

"We conducted an experiment with two types of treatments and a control group. In total, we observed the behaviour of 50 pairs of sparrows," Lola García López de Hierro, the study's main researcher, said.

According to their results, carrying feathers could be a result of sexual selection by the females as they put more energy into reproduction if they have more feathers in the nest. "They provide excellent insulation and the females know that less chicks will die if the male brings more feathers," the expert stated.

The experiment was conducted in the natural environment of Dassen Island (South Africa) and this is the first time this behaviour has been documented in the house sparrow.

Taking away and adding feathers

The researchers took away and added feathers to the nests of the fifty pairs of sparrows during these birds' different mating seasons.

A first stage in the treatment consisted of spending an hour observing the behaviour of the pairs with chicks less than five days old in order to register diverse variables and watch their behaviour if a series of feathers were taken away or if these feathers were left in the nest. The experiment was then repeated with chicks over ten days old.

"We had film recordings of the nest where we gathered information on sparrow behaviour and, using a table of variables, we were able to conclude that the more feathers in the nest, the more eggs the sparrows laid," García-López de Hierro pointed out.

They also observed that when the females noticed there were feathers missing they animatedly called the males and the male sparrows responded by bringing more feathers and dancing around the female on his return to the nest.

Monogamous birds

Ninety per cent of sparrows mate for life and keep the same partner from one year to the next; however, numerous factors influence the choice of mating partner. For example, the size of the black patch on the males' chest, commonly known as the bib, indicates their biological quality. "The bigger the patch, the higher the quality, an aspect that females can easily select for," the scientist explained.

Other factors that demonstrate the male's biological capacity are the redness of the head, in other words, "the more carotene they invest in the colour of their feathers, the more reproductive success they will have," and the ratio between the size of the beak and the size of the tarsus.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lola García-López de Hierro, Marcos Moleón, Peter G. Ryan. Is Carrying Feathers a Sexually Selected Trait in House Sparrows? Ethology, 2013; 119 (3): 199 DOI: 10.1111/eth.12053

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "The more feathers a male sparrow carries to the nest, the more eggs the female will lay." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507060836.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2013, May 7). The more feathers a male sparrow carries to the nest, the more eggs the female will lay. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507060836.htm
Plataforma SINC. "The more feathers a male sparrow carries to the nest, the more eggs the female will lay." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507060836.htm (accessed August 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins