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A Red Bird in a Brown Bag

The Function and Evolution of Colorful Plumage in the House Finch

A Red Bird in a Brown Bag

The Function and Evolution of Colorful Plumage in the House Finch

Author: Geoffrey E. Hill

Published: 2002-09-26

Publisher's Description:

  • Most in-depth, complete study of the function and control of plumage coloration for any species of bird
  • Over 100 original illustrations
  • The first detailed review of carotenoid physiology in passerine birds
  • A review of the history of the study of plumage coloration
  • A personal view of the triumphs and hardships of field biology in the suburbs
This is an account of studies of the function and evolution of colorful plumage in the House Finch. It is also an engaging study on the evolution of sexual selection in birds and a lively portrait of the challenges and constraints of experimental design facing any field investigator working with animal behavior. Part I sets the stage for modern studies of the function of plumage coloration with a review of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Part II focuses on the proximate control and present function of plumage coloration. Part III takes a more explicitly evolutionary approach to the study of plumage coloration using biogeography and phylogeny to test hypotheses for why specific forms of plumage color display have evolved. It concludes with an account of comparative studies that have been conducted in the House Finch and other cardueline finches and the insight these studies have provided on the evolution of carotenoid-based ornamental coloration.

Readership: Ornithologists and serious amateurs, evolutionary biologists, behavioural ecologists.



  • Language: English
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Publisher External link icon

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • City:
  • Country: United States


  • Series Title: Oxford Ornithology Series
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  • Date Published: 25 Sep 2002
  • ISBN-10: 0195148487
  • ISBN-13: 9780195148480