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Data from: Which plumage patches provide information about condition and success in a female fairy-wren?


Nolazco, Sergio et al. (2022), Data from: Which plumage patches provide information about condition and success in a female fairy-wren?, Dryad, Dataset,


Recent evidence suggests that female ornaments can commonly act as signals. However, how signaling functions might be affected by the tendency for reduced ornament elaboration in relation to males is less well understood. We address this in mutually ornamented purple-crowned fairy-wrens. We investigated putatively ornamental (tail, ear coverts, crown) and non-ornamental (throat, back) plumage patches in females and compared our findings to previous studies in males. Both sexes have brown backs, buff-white throats, and turquoise-blue tails (bluer in males), while ear coverts are rufous in females and black in males. Both sexes also have a seasonal crown (slate-grey in females, black-and-purple in males). Dominant (breeder) females expressed more complete and greyer (more ornamented) crowns, although variation in coloration should not be discriminable by individuals. Unexpectedly, subordinates showed more colorful (saturated) rufous ear coverts, which should be discriminable. Condition dependence was only evident for crown completeness (% slate-grey cover). Females with more reddish-brown backs were more reproductively successful. Variation in plumage characteristics did not explain differential allocation by mates or chances of gaining dominance. Our outcomes were not entirely consistent with findings in males. The most notable disparity was for the crown, a signal used in male-male competition that in females seems to be expressed as an incomplete version of the male crown that is not associated with fitness benefits. Our study shows that in a species, multiple traits can vary in their information content and that female ornaments can sometimes be less informative than in males, even those that are produced seasonally.


Data were collected from a population of purple-crowned fairy-wrens within the Mornington Wildlife Sactuary, a protected area located in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Data collection took place from 2005 to 2017 and involved bird banding, blood sampling, population censuses, behavioral observations, and reflectance measurements of plumage patches and habitat components. 

Usage Notes

These files include the data used to reproduce the analyses of our paper entitled "Which plumage patches provide information about condition and success in a female fairy-wren?". We also include a README file explaining column headers.


Australian Research Council, Award: FT110100505

Australian Research Council, Award: DE120102323

Australian Research Council, Award: DP150103595

Monash University