Between 2015 and 2019, the behavior of 436 white-necked hummingbirds in the Central American rainforest in Panama was studied. Of research shows that about 30 percent of women dressed up as men.
Researchers offer two explanations for the disguise of women. The females change color to stand out from the males and thus begin to mate. Either the females change color to keep the males away from them and thus find food more quickly.
Male hummingbirds are colorful and are distinguished by their blue heads, dark green backs, and white bellies. Females are often gray: a combination of gray-green and white.
Video footage shows females changing color to avoid social harassment from males. Male hummingbirds have shown a sexual preference for female gray-colored hummingbirds.
According to Stevan Mije, bird expert at Naturalis, female hummingbirds are very intelligent. “Male hummingbirds are mainly engaged in mating, so female hummingbirds only care for their young. If you have to take care of your offspring, you don’t have time to worry about them.”
With a bright color, it is much easier for females. “The bird’s vivid colors are associated with aggressiveness,” said evolutionary environmentalist Jay Falk. by National Geographic. “If you look like a man, you no longer suffer from bullies.”
It also plays a role in the successful breeding of young people. “You need a lot of food for this. If you are left alone you can peck all day,” says Mije.
Not all women
So why don’t all female hummingbirds change color? According to evolutionary ecologist Dustin Rubenstein, this is due to the risk involved. “When you radiate bright colors, you stand out,” he told the National Geopgraphic. “The risk is much higher that you will be eaten by predators.”
In addition, creating the colors also takes a lot of energy, according to Mije. “You have to put on very luxurious plumage. The more color your feathers have, the more energy it takes to do it.”
In areas with a lot of food, women are less likely to change color, Mije believes. “If females can easily find food, they will have less effort to raise their young. “
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