Pheomelanin-based colouration is correlated with indices of flying strategies in the Barn Owl

Motti Charter, Yossi Leshem, Ido Izhaki, Alexandre Roulin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Resource polymorphism refers to individuals from the same population foraging in alternative habitats or on alternative food. Food specialization can be associated with adaptations such as colour polymorphism, with pale and dark colours conferring differential camouflage in different habitats. Pale and dark-reddish pheomelanic Barn Owls (Tyto alba) forage on different prey species in closed and open habitats, respectively. We show here that darker-reddish owls have heavier stomach content when found dead, and their 5th secondary wing feather is more deeply anchored inside the integument. These correlations suggest that their feathers bend less when flying, and that darker-reddish Barn Owls are able sustain more intense flying than their paler conspecifics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-312
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Kobi Meyrom, Amir Ezer, and Shay Halevi for assistance in collection carcasses and Naomi Paz for editorial assistance. The study was financed by the Swiss National Science and Addax-Oryx Foundations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.


  • Colour polymorphism
  • Feather
  • Flying
  • Foraging
  • Melanin
  • Stomach content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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