Data from: Condition-dependent expression of carotenoid- and melanin-based plumage colour of northern flicker nestlings revealed by manipulation of brood size
Musgrove, Annessa B.; Wiebe, Karen L. (2015), Data from: Condition-dependent expression of carotenoid- and melanin-based plumage colour of northern flicker nestlings revealed by manipulation of brood size, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j81m5
Carotenoid-based colouration in feathers is widely accepted to be a reliable signal of the health of an individual, but the condition-dependence of melanin-based plumage ornaments has been highly debated. Using broods that were manipulated in size, we tested whether nutritional stress during rearing affected the carotenoid pigmentation in secondary feathers and the size, shape, and symmetry of melanin spots on breast plumage of northern flicker Colaptes auratus nestlings. Two measures of carotenoid colour (chroma and brightness) of secondary flight feathers did not vary according to brood size treatment, but in a larger dataset from the population, carotenoid chroma was positively associated with nestling mass. Nestlings from experimentally enlarged broods had smaller melanin spots than those from reduced broods, which is some of the first experimental evidence that melanin ornament size in growing nestlings is condition-dependent. However, the shape and symmetry of the melanin breast spots was not associated with nestling mass. Sexual dimorphism was apparent in both types of pigmentation and future studies should investigate whether there are any trade-offs for nestlings between investing in carotenoid colouration and melanisation and whether trade-offs differ between the sexes.