When we hear the names of hummingbirds, we think of tiny, cute and friendly animals that roam from flower to flower to collect nectar. But the reality is very different… The life of these animals is just as difficult as that of humans. Especially the female hummingbirds …
White-necked Jacobean hummingbirds are a very good example. When the female of the White-necked Jacobins, who live in the geography that stretches from Mexico to Brazil, lays eggs, the male, the father of the cub, suddenly disappears and leaves all the responsibility to the female. If the white-necked Jacobin female did not spend hours building her nest, it would be easy for the egg to fall into the hands of hunters and perish.
The situation does not change much after the baby hatches from the egg. The white-necked Jacobin female must take care of feeding and care on her own until her cub grows up and flies out of the nest.
MEN CONTINUALLY HARASSES WOMEN
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There is also the harassment and violence dimension. Female hummingbirds are constantly attacked by males. Females with dark green, brown and black striped feathers like camouflage clothing roam from flower to flower to collect nectar, while aggressive males with bright blue heads constantly fly after them, pecking and trying to strike. their trunks.
Yet a scientific study, the results of which were published last week, found that white-necked Jacobin women have acquired a very interesting characteristic to protect themselves from male violence.
THE SOLUTION: LOOK LIKE A MAN
More than a quarter of female White-naped Jacobins lack green plumage, as expected, according to research published in Current Biology. On the contrary, these females have sparkling blue heads, glossy white tails and white bellies, just like male Jacobins.
In addition, these females, which look exactly like male hummingbirds, do not experience violence while foraging, unlike their green sisters. It can be comfortably fed for longer periods.
The majority of female Jacobean white-necked hummingbirds have these colors.
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DOES NOT MATCH THE MATCH CHOICE THEORY
In the vast majority of bird species around the world, males attract more attention than females. The fan tails of peacocks or the bright blue heads of hummingbirds are prime examples.
Researching hummingbirds, Dr. Jay Falk, in a statement to the New York Times, said that a significant portion of scientists tended to explain this difference with mate selection theory over the past 50 years. , but the theory in question collapsed when applied to females.
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According to Falk, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington and also works at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the evolution of females to acquire the eye-catching characteristics of males has nothing to do with mate. while searching. They develop such traits only for their own evolutionary benefit.
IS THE SOCIAL ELECTION MORE IMPORTANT?
“When we focus too much on men and mate choice, we miss the big picture and fail to paint a full picture of nature,” said Falk. The way out of this mistake, Falk says, is to focus on social selection. The theory maintains that the social life of species is one of the driving forces of evolution.
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“The hypothesis that these flamboyant traits are linked to mate selection is something that needs to be tested,” said biologist Kimberley Rosvall, who reviewed the research for The New York Times. “Females compete in many different settings, but only a few of them are related to partner competition,” said Rosvall of Indiana University, Bloomington, who has not played a role in Falk’s research.
Adult White-necked Jacobins weigh around 7 grams. Males of the species can grow to the size of a toilet paper roll. Falk called the White-necked Jacobins “the athletes of the hummingbird kingdom,” who aim to influence their surroundings by spreading their tails and doing backflips.
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A SUBJECT OF RESEARCH FOR 70 YEARS
The fact that females display different colors is a topic that the scientific world has been working on for a long time. For example, an article Falk found during his research indicated that the subject had been studied in the 1940s. The article, published in 1950, referred to a group of white-necked Jacobin women.
Some of the birds mentioned in the article are green, but some of them are blue in color, which makes them appear male enough to fool even scientists. In fact, the universal female symbol used to refer to a blue-headed woman has been highlighted twice in the article.
28 percent of women
Falk traveled to Gamboa, Panama, in 2015 to investigate why Jacobin women look like men. After sexing 401 birds that frequented feeding stations across town and in nearby forests, Falk found that 28 percent of the females looked like blue-headed males.
All of the young females had blue plumage like the males, but only 20 percent of the adult females had ornaments. So, all Jacobins looked like males when they were little, but as the females got older their color turned dull green.
“It was clear there was a job,” Falk told The Guardian. “Every man and woman starts life looking like a grown man. As they age, twenty percent of women retain this colorful plumage, while the remaining 80 percent become dull. It wears feathers of different colors.”
The fact that all offspring looked like males did not fit the theory of mate selection. “They make these beautiful decorations visible when they’re not at all interested in matching them,” Falk said.
MEN ARE INTERESTED IN GREEN WOMEN
Wanting to see how the Jacobins would react to green birds and bright blue birds, Falk made painted clay bird sculptures. However, none of the Jacobins found these statues interesting. Later, trying to use posthumous stuffed hummingbirds, Falk grouped the green females, blue males, and blue females together in various ways and placed them above the feeding stations.
According to Falk’s hypothesis, males should prefer blue-headed females when it comes to selecting a mate. However, the male birds clearly chose the green females. And, inexplicably, the Jacobins and the other birds jostled the green females more than the blue females and males.
These experiments also matched well with images taken by nature experts. Images revealed that green females were hunted up to 10 times more than blue-headed females.
NOURISH MORE COMFORTABLY FOR LONGER
It was clear that blue-headed women were more respected for their personal space. But could the disguise have other advantages? To test this, Falk monitored the feeding behavior of green females, blue-headed females, and blue-headed males via bird-mounted trackers.
An analysis of 88,000 registered feeding visits over 9 months concluded that blue-headed females visited feeding stations more frequently and stayed longer than green females. In short, the females of Jacobean white-necked hummingbirds do not adorn themselves for mates but to access more food.
“We realized it’s not about mating competition. It’s about social selection and competition for food,” said Falk.
Hummingbirds are creatures that expend a lot of energy while moving. Therefore, being able to comfortably feed for longer periods without being chased is a great advantage for this species. “Hummingbirds live at the limits of their energy. Therefore, even a small difference in access to food can turn into a very serious benefit,” said Rosvall.
SO HOW DO THEY DO THIS? NOT YET CLEAR
As Falk’s research answers the question of why women prefer to look like men, “How? There is still no answer to the question.
So what females do to keep their head hair blue is not yet understood. Falk said he hopes to shed light on this mystery in his next job.