Condition dependence of nestling mouth colour and the effect of supplementing carotenoids on parental behaviour in the hihi (Notiomystis cincta)

EWEN J. G. , Thorogood R., Karadaş F., Cassey P.

OECOLOGIA, vol.157, no.2, pp.361-368, 2008 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 157 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00442-008-1073-3
  • Journal Name: OECOLOGIA
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.361-368
  • Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Affiliated: Yes


Carotenoids are integument pigments that often reflect foraging efficiency, disease resistance and body condition. In contrast to the widespread attention this relationship has received in adult birds, the condition dependence of nestling colouration remains an understudied component of animal communication. Here we assess the condition dependence of carotenoid pigmentation in nestling hihi (Notiomystis cincta, an endangered New Zealand bird) and examine the influence of carotenoid supplementation on nestling quality and parental visitation rates. Our results show that carotenoids provided to breeding adult hihi were transferred to their offspring and resulted in an intensified orange-yellow flange colour. After accounting for carotenoid supplementation the parameter that most consistently explained variation in nestling flange colour was nestling tarsus length at 23 days, indicating condition dependence of this trait. We did not, however, detect direct effects of carotenoid supplementation on nestling mass or immune response (or any other fitness parameter measured). Carotenoid supplementation did, however, result in an increased paternal provisioning rate.