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Barb Johnson, age 13, of Rockford, I11

Why are male birds prettier than females?

Mrs, Mallard and Mrs. Pintail, both of the large duck family, wear modest plumage of speckled brown. Mrs. Mallard has a few stiff feathers of brilliant blue tucked in her wings, but this is her only decoration. In contrast, Mr. Mallard wears a headdress of shimmering, green above a white necklace. There are patches of bright blue, chocolate brown, white and green among his stiff wing feathers and he has a sassy little upturned tail. Mr. Pintail has a chocolate brown face above a white collar and bright patches of color in his wings. Mr. Wood Duck is decked in patches of color from his beak to his legs and Mrs. Wood Duck wears speckled brown.

The birds of paradise of New Guinea and northern Australia are among the most beautiful in the world. There are about 36 cousins, each one more handsome than the next, But all these fine feathers are worn by the males of the glamorous family. The females, like the ladies of the wild duck family, wear plumage of modest brown. Mr. Ring necked Pheasant wears a long, conspicuous tail and outstanding patches of color on his head. His wife wears dull brown with a much shorter tail.

There are countless examples in which the male bird outdresses his wife, But in the world there are also many families in which both birds dress alike. Flamingos, sea gulls, eagles$ hawks p owls p swans and penguins are just a few bird families in which both parents wear the same styles and colors. The gaudy males of the bird world attract a lot of attention. But they are actually outnumbered by the male birds who dress just like their wives.

A gaily colored creature attracts attention and this may not b e safe for the whole family. When our handsome ring necked pheasant takes to the air he is an eye catcher. The hunter raises his gun, the fox makes some long range plans. Meantime Mrs. Pheasant is sitting safely hidden among the brown grasses which match her drab brown feathers. She does not attract any attention to herself or to her precious nest. The females of the wild duck family also blend in with the foliage around their nests. If they were gaily dressed like the drakes, they would attract unwanted attention,

The birds of modest colors, then seem to be safer. This makes us wonder why the male birds risk gay coloring. The fact is this. They may not want to attract our attention. But they do want to attract the attention of the female birds. A male bird wears his brightest colors and sings his sweetest song in the courting season. He may sing or dance or display his plumage before the drably dressed female. Chances are, she will choose the fellow who attracts the most attention,

 

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