News and Research Highlights of the Department Ornithology

A wooden nest-box with two birds sitting at the entrance, looking at each other.

Daurian redstarts move closer to humans to protect their nests from brood parasitism more

Citizens reveal that pairs of rufous horneros have specific preferences when it comes to nest building 

The breeding pair jointly builds a complex nest with asymmetric architecture more

Zebra finch males sing in dialects and females pay attention

Artificial intelligence succeeds where we struggle more

How red phalaropes end up caring for another male’s offspring

A test of the sperm storage hypothesis more

Migratory birds have lighter-colored feathers

As a result, the plumage absorbs less solar energy and thus prevents overheating during long flights. more

Female finches are picky but pragmatic when choosing a mate

Females remain unmated when competition for preferred mates is too big - but then often smuggle their eggs into other nests more

Global study on bird song frequency

Competition for mates leads to a deeper voice than expected based on size more

Childlessness by circumstance

Childlessness by circumstance

September 30, 2020

Why zebra finches have problems with reproduction more

Social networks reveal dating in blue tits

Blue tits that are already associated in winter are more likely to have young together in spring more

Blowing in the wind

Blowing in the wind

February 12, 2020

A polygynous shorebird decides where to breed based on the prevailing wind conditions more

First come, first bred

First come, first bred

January 12, 2020

Arriving early in the breeding area is crucial for successful reproduction also in non-migratory birds more

The rules of colour: rainfall and temperature predict bird colouration on a global scale

Precipitation and temperature can be used to predict the colouring of birds more

No egg is like another

No egg is like another

January 04, 2019

Female age and laying order drive variation of egg quality in blue tits more

Brood failure in blue tits

Brood failure in blue tits is almost always due to the loss of a parent more

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

The colour of bands attached to the legs of birds for individual identification does not have an effect on the birds’ behaviour, physiology, life-history or fitness. This result of a study from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen contradicts long established text-book “knowledge” and questions whether ornaments play a major role in mate choice of monogamous species. more

Mutation speeds up sperm of zebra finches

Gene inversion gives reproductive advantage to zebra finches more

Speed Dating: Promiscuous pectoral sandpipers sample breeding sites along thousands of kilometres

The shorebirds have a huge breeding range across the Arctic more

How parents divide their duties

Parents need to synchronize the care for their offspring. This leads to extreme and unexpected diversity in how parents attend their nest in shorebirds. Some pairs switched duties 20 times a day, while in others one parent sat on the nest for up to 50 hours. The key factor underlying this variation is risk of predation, not risk of starvation. more

Are females glamorous because males are?

Explaining variation in plumage colour of male and female birds more

Free mate choice enhances fitness: Zebra finch offspring benefit from love marriages

Zebra finches allowed to breed with their preferred partner achieved a 37 percent higher reproductive success compared to pairs that were forced to mate more

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