Burley, N. T. (2006). An eye for detail: Selective sexual imprinting in zebra finches. Evolution, 60(5), 1076-1085.

I performed experiments to determine whether colony-reared zebra finches would imprint on details of artificial white crests. In the first experiment, adults in one breeding colony wore white crests with a vertical black stripe, while in another colony adults wore crests having a horizontal black stripe; except for their crests, breeders possessed wild-type plumage and conformation. Offspring of both sexes reared in these colonies developed mate preferences for opposite-sexed birds wearing the crest type with which they were reared; neither sex developed a social preference for crested individuals of the same sex.

Results support the hypothesis that sexual imprinting can facilitate isolation both by engendering a preference for population-typical traits and by prioritizing such an imprinting-based preference over species-typical preferences for other traits used in mate choice.

Photo of birds with artificial crests (made from painted artificial finger nails)