Why are female birds ornamented?

Trends Ecol Evol. 2000 Apr;15(4):149-155. doi: 10.1016/s0169-5347(99)01800-5.


Sexual selection is now widely accepted as the main evolutionary explanation of extravagant male ornaments. By contrast, ornaments occurring in females have received little attention and often have been considered as nonadaptive, correlated effects of selection on males. However, recent comparative evidence suggests that female ornaments have evolved quite independently of male showiness. Also, new theoretical models predict that both male mate choice and female contest competition will occur under certain circumstances. This is supported by recent experimental studies. Thus, selection acting on females might be a widespread cause of female ornaments.