Why are Birds Bright and Colorful?

wp051bd43d_05_06We study the ecology and evolution of reproductive behavior in birds. We are particularly interested in extra-pair mating, which occurs when individuals mate with individuals ‘outside’ their supposedly monogamous relationships. In most birds extra-pair males only provide sperm – they do not help with parental care. Thus, females that choose to mate with these males are only likely to be gaining better genes for their offspring. Although this has been a popular hypothesis, it is controversial because finding evidence of these ‘good genes’ has been difficult.