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Yellower blue tits make better dads

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11:07am, February 12, 2002

Among the little European birds called blue tits, it's the yellow feathers that mark a good dad.

That's the conclusion of a novel experiment by Juan Carlos Senar and his colleagues at the Museu de Zoologia in Barcelona. They've been investigating what information flashy male-bird feathers might reveal to females. Studies in several other birds, such as house finches, have shown that females prefer males with plenty of the orange-yellow carotene pigments in their feathers. Senar wondered whether yellow advertises good genes or behavioral traits that make for good parenting.

Previous work indicated that the yellowness of a male blue tit's breast indicates how many caterpillars he's eaten. To a female, therefore, a particularly yellow male might be the kind of mate

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