The role of the white wing patch in communication among northern mockingbirds

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael J. Justice (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Cheryl Logan

Abstract: Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) have large white patches on dark gray wings. Previous research has shown that the size of such plumage "badges" may function as a status signal, which allows individuals to evaluate the fighting ability of conspecifics without actually initiating combat. The present research was undertaken to test the hypothesis that male mockingbirds' wing patches are status signals. To this end, male mockingbirds were captured and their wing patches were experimentally enlarged, reduced, or covered. If wing patches are status signals, then reducing and covering the wing patch should increase the frequency and intensity of territorial intrusions and chases, while increasing wing patch size should have the opposite effect. Covering the wing patch did increase territorial chases, but neither reducing nor enlarging the wing patch had an effect on territorial chases. These results suggest that the wing patch may simply be a cue to species recognition, but do not refute the possibility that the wing patch is a status signal.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1996
Mockingbirds $x Anatomy
Wings (Anatomy)

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