Campus News

For The Birds: Kevin Oh '01 on Looks and Love in The New York Times

Story posted July 15, 2010

It stands to reason that if one is lacking in the looks department, one might cultivate a more outgoing personality to compensate for such a shortcoming — or is that for the birds?

Such is actually the case among house finches, according to research conducted by Dr. Kevin Oh '01 and cited in The New York Times.

House finch left140.jpg

Excerpts from the article, "Love Among Finches: It's Not All About Looks":

Female house finches prefer to mate with males with the reddest feathers, but dull-colored males make themselves more appealing by acting more social before mating season, according to a study in the September issue of The American Naturalist.
"Females have limited options to chose from and this is a way for males to manipulate their chances to find mates, by placing themselves in certain settings," said Kevin Oh, an evolutionary biologist at Cornell University and the study’s lead author. The least attractive, or most yellow, males were four times as likely to interact with multiple social groups then the most attractive, or reddest, males, Dr. Oh said.

Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences Nathaniel Wheelwright recalls Oh's research at the College, saying that he "cut his teeth with a spectacular honors thesis on territorial behavior in Savannah sparrows on Kent Island."

Read the article.

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