Garcia-Navas et al., Biol. J. of the Linn. Soc., 2013
Figure 2. Examples of the behaviour of the males observed in response to the feather-addition treatment: male blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) removing feathers from their nest (A, B); a male introducing a 'natural' feather (pigeon down) to the nest (C); and a male introducing new nesting material (straw, dry grass) to cover the feathers added experimentally by researchers (D).
Hey he-men, are there advantages to feathering your own nest?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:
That’s what you’d do if you were a tit. That's a type of chickadee. Male blue tits collect bright feathers as gifts for their mates. It reflects resourcefulness, which is so sexy. Turns out, the decorations also serve a more discrete purpose. To monitor possible infidelity!
Meet Vicente García from the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid. He added feathers to nests of wild birds to see what they’d do. And? Resident males freaked! They tossed the foreign items overboard. Stopped defending their territory. Spent long hours away from home. Many even flew the coop, abandoning mates and young'uns. Why the crisis?
Each male apparently keeps tabs on his feathery offerings. So if more turn up? Mama’s got a birdie boy-toy. This puts his own paternity in doubt. And in the wild? Life’s too short to raise another man’s brood.
In sum? A male blue tit may be many things. But he’s no boob. Sorry.
***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****
The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Win a thousand dollars for your favorite public school in our November contest! Details at lohdownonscience.org.