Evolution of plumage color in true thrushes (Turdidae: Turdus)
Reflectance spectra of adult male and female American robin (T.migratorius) and Rufous-collared Thrush (T. rufitorques) breast feathers. Males of both species have redder, darker breast feathers than females
There is an incredible amount of diversity in bird feather color between and within species. My current research focuses on how and why certain feather colors have evolved within the true thrush genus. Compared to other passerine groups, such as warblers or tanagers, thrushes have a relatively limited color palette; limited to gray, rufous red, brown, black, and white--all the result of melanin deposition (or lack of) in feather barbules. Certain combinations of colors from this limited palette, along with differences in male and female appearance, have evolved independently many times throughout the true thrush lineage.
Egg recognition in brood parasite hosts
Recognition and removal of foreign eggs is an important defense against brood parasitism. In a study of American robins, I tested the hypothesis that recognition and removal of foreign eggs is dictated by an individual's motivation to clean debris from its nest (Luro and Hauber 2017). Robins removed blue experimental eggs from their nests regardless of whether or not they were first presented with an opportunity to clean their nest. There was also no relationship between how tidy a robin kept its nest (i.e., removal of painted leaves) and if the robin removed the blue egg from its nest. These results suggest that robins pay close attention eggs and other contents within their nests, and do not haphazardly remove any object that does not closely resemble a robin egg.