Recent research suggests that male birds could use eggshell color as a signal of the quality of their offspring to decide how much parental care to provide. Previous studies have found support for this hypothesis in bird species that lay blue eggs, but it has not been as thoroughly tested in species that lay brown eggs, such as House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon). In this species, brighter eggs are associated with greater female investment. We tested whether males responded to this potential cue. We experimentally manipulated clutch brightness by randomly adding a white or brown plastic egg to nests during incubation and then compared the male provisioning rates between those two treatment groups. Male House Wrens whose nests had received a white egg provisioned their nestlings at significantly higher rates than males whose nests had received a brown egg. These results suggest that male House Wrens pay attention to female investment when deciding how much energy to spend on nestling provisioning. This study supports the generality of the hypothesis of egg color as a sexually selected signal by experimentally demonstrating that males of a species that lays brown eggs also can respond to egg color.
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