Inca Terns Larosterna inca are medium-size seabirds that breed along the Peruvian and Chilean coast. They are monogamous and both sexes incubate and contribute to chick provisioning. The sexes are similar in appearance and have elaborate ornaments, including a long white moustache of feathers and fleshy yellow wattles. In this paper we report the differences in ornamentation between sexes and examine whether the trait predicts body condition, reproductive performance or chick quality in either sex. The ornaments were similar in size and coloration between the sexes, except for the wattle length, the difference in which can be due to greater head length in males. Moustache length was the most reliable signal of body condition in both sexes. Moreover, there was a significant relationship between the moustache length and reproductive category of adults (non-breeder, unsuccessful breeder, or one or two chicks fledged). Both asymptotic chick body mass and the T-cell mediated response of chicks (a measure of immunocompetence) were related to the moustache length of male and female adults. These results provide support for the role of ornaments in mutual signalling of condition in this species. Female and male ornaments predict body condition, reproductive performance and chick quality, as predicted by sexual selection models. [KEYWORDS: Sexual selection; mate choice; mating preferences; barn swallows; parental-care; birds; immunocompetence; evolution; brightness; blackbirds]
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Journal publication date2001

ID: 169588