Morphological signals of sex and status in spotted bowerbirds
journal contributionposted on 2004-01-01, 00:00 authored by J Madden, John EndlerJohn Endler, F Jury
The Spotted Bowerbird, Chlamydera maculata, appears to be sexually monomorphic. We caught and marked 118 birds in central Queensland, and sexed 88 using molecular methods. We found that our catch was strongly male-biased, both at bower sites and at non-bower feeding sites. We continued to observe the bird's behaviour after their release and so sub-divided males into sexual status groups as either bower-owners or non-owners. We searched for morphological measures, subjectively judged colour differences and quantitatively collected spectral measures of the visual properties of the crest feathers that would allow us to separate birds of differing sex and status. We found that bower owners had larger crests than non-owner males or females and that crest area provided the most accurate predictor of a bird's sex and status in a discriminant function analysis. We studied a cohort of seven males who went from non-owners to bower owners over three years, and found that their change in status was accompanied by a change in crest size – the only significant change in their morphology. Crest size did not relate to the mating success of a bower-owner. Instead, we suggest why the crest may differ between status groups and the implications that this may have for the sexual behaviour of male and female Spotted Bowerbirds.