A recently published study on red-legged partridges has shown that the fractal geometry of an individual bird's neck plumage is a significant indicator of its health and nutrition status.This finding is an important step in the development of new methods to monitor the health status of a bird population and its habitat using non-intrusive methods.
Male and female red-legged partridges have a characteristic fractal-patterned "bib" around their neck. Its shape is too complex to describe with direct measurements, but its fractal dimension, a complex property of fractal patterns, can be calculated from photographs with the help of computer models.
Bird colouration, together with elaborate dancing and enchanting or scary calls is an important factor in mating selection for many bird species. The results of this study show that mate selection characteristics can originate not only on the genetic makeup of a bird, but on its individual fitness and performance in finding food, as well as the availability of food in the environment. Both of these factors are important for the reproductive success of the couple and the survival of their offspring.
The results of this study are a show-case of a new group of methods to assess bird population fitness and the status of their habitat. Photographic surveys, with the help of computer models, can be used as a non-intrusive method. With the availability of low-cost equipment, these parameters can be made available to habitat managers in real time, saving time and money to be used in resolving any issues rather than just trying to understand them.