A colorful barn swallow sings his song at the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in southern
Oregon in this 2003 photo (AP).

Pretty Birds Have More Fun

June 05, 2008 06:58 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Researchers at Arizona State University artificially darkened the pigmentation of male barn swallows, increasing the birds’ social standing and their testosterone levels.

30-Second Summary

Scientists at Arizona State University darkened the pigmentation of some male barn swallows with markers and noted that not only did the males appear more attractive to their female counterparts, the birds’ testosterone levels rose 36 percent.

In many avian species, males with colorful feathers are deemed more attractive by female birds. High levels of pigmentation in their feathers indicate health and vitality.

Scientists conducting the study are unsure about why testosterone levels changed so significantly. One researcher commented, “It’s the ‘clothes make the man’ idea. It’s like you walk down the street and you're driving a Rolls Royce and people notice. And your physiology accommodates this.”

Similar studies in humans have shown that attractive people often feel more confident and have especially successful social lives.

Headline link: ‘Marked-up birds become sexier, exude testosterone’

Background: Male birds thrive with fine feathers

Related Topics: Social strategies for birds, humans

The varied strategies of multicolored birds
Attractiveness in humans raises social confidence

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