Hummingbirds are famous for fast flights, looking cute and sociable. Where White-necked Jacobin hummingbird males mark their sway in bold feathers, the female hummingbirds of that species (Florisuga mellivora) personifies a much more composed look.
But is not how it seems as their world is rife with aggression, and according to observations made by scientists some female hummingbirds have evolved to look brilliantly colored, just like the males to avoid the more aggressive and sexual attention.
This finding could be a great advantage to prevent the hostile behavior of males to dominate females by body-slamming and pecking to snatch food.
“Our tests found that the typical less colorful females were harassed much more than females with male-like plumage,” said ornithologist Jay Falk, now with the University of Washington, in a Cornell statement on Thursday. “Because the male-plumaged females experienced less aggression, they were able to feed more often — a clear advantage.”
Falk is the lead author of research on the hummingbirds led by Cornell University researchers and is published in the journal Current Biology this week. During their research on white-necked Jacobin hummingbirds in Panama, they found that almost 20% of the adult females look like the males and spent about 35% longer at the feeders than typical females.
There is a striking difference between the male hummingbirds and female hummingbirds’ plumage when we talk of White-necked Jacobin. Males have sparkly blue-colored heads, greenbacks, and white bellies and tails, and as the name suggests white bands on the neck. While females are subtle having a green head, black back, and white bellies with dark feathers and tails also darker.
The researchers also fabricated an experiment to observe how the birds interact on the basis of coloring, taking three combinations of two mounts: male and heterochromatic female; male and androchromatic female; and heterochromatic and androchromatic female. It is a fact that Hummingbirds are competitive for food among their species, so researchers also recorded sexual interaction besides aggressive interaction amongst the birds.
Results were interesting as male hummingbirds still preferred the subtle-colored female hummingbirds sexually. In all the trials the heterochromatic females were advanced – eliminating mate selection as a reason for bright coloring.
However, the colored females were targeted less frequently during feeding than heterochromatic females. While the wild male species did not show any bias in aggression when one female and male taxidermy mounts with vivid coloring were present.
This behavior of juveniles showed that hiding themselves as males reduces the rate of social harassment of the female birds by males.
The team wishes to use their findings in future research to learn about the evolution made by other species in sexually dimorphic traits.
“Hummingbirds are such beloved animals by many people, but there are still mysteries that we haven’t noticed or studied,” Falk said.