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  • Editor's Choice from the Auk, April 2012

    MIchael Murphy
    • Author: Michael T. Murphy, Editor

      The editor of The Auk highlights two articles from the most recent issue that deserve special attention. In the first, Kevin Burns and Allison Schultz report on widespread cryptic dichromatism in Neotropical songbirds. In the second, Iván de la Hera et al. expore the relationships between migratory behavior and speed and timing of molt in Nearctic passerines. Both articles are available for free online thanks to the AOU.

    In 2011 we began highlighting articles that we believe deserve special attention from our members and hopefully increase interest in the journal in readers who are not members now. Below are my choices for this issue of The Auk.


    Widespread cryptic dichromatism and ultraviolet reflectance in the largest radiation of

    Neotropical songbirds: Implications of accounting for avian vision in the study of plumage



    Kevin J. Burns and Allison J. Shultz


    Burns and Shultz report results of an exhaustive survey of plumage dichromatism of species in the Cardinalidae (cardinals and grosbeaks) and Thraupidae (tanagers) and show that UV reflectance is widespread, and dichromatism is far more extensive in these two large groups than previously thought. Given the importance of color for sexual and natural selection, and behavior generally, Burns and Shultz’s findings should cause us all to now look at birds with a far more discerning (if ill-equipped) eye!


    Feather growth rate and mass in Nearctic passerines with variable migratory behavior

    and molt pattern.


    Iván de la Hera, David F. DeSante, and Borja Milá


    Despite its importance for birds, we are still ignorant of many aspects of molt and much remains to be learned. North temperate-zone breeding birds generally molt after breeding, but de la Hera and his colleagues show that migratory behavior and speed and timing of molt are related. Patterns are further complicated for passerine species that breed in western North America because some undergo a stopover molt within the Mexican monsoon region midway through migration, and these species have the shortest molt duration among all Nearctic passerines.

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