Zebra finches with tail-elongations left perches during induced take-offs consistently later than unmanipulated controls. Latency in take-off was the same for both a short pintail-elongation (27% of finch long-axis) and an extreme pintail-elongation (49% of finch long-axis). There was no evidence for artificial pintails increasing energy expenditure, as predicted by flight aerodynamics models. Neither flight metabolic rate determined using the doubly labelled water technique, nor resting metabolic rate or food intake rates were affected. Hence, the energetic costs of elaborate pintails seem likely to be small and perhaps biologically trivial. In contrast, pintails appear to confer a manoeuvrability cost, as found in previous studies of long tails. Latency in take-off may be induced by an increased risk of collision with conspecifics during group take-offs and landings. Alternatively, latency may represent a change of predator-avoidance strategy, because taking off within the group does not minimise predation risk when handicapped by tail-elongation. The effects of tail-elongation are likely to be context-dependent and may differ between solitary species and more gregarious species that fly or forage in flocks.
- Energy expenditure
- Sexual selection