Sexually dimorphic ornamental traits are widely regarded as indicators of nutritional condition. However, variation of nutritional condition outside the reproductive and the ornament production seasons has rarely been considered, although it affects the generality of information content, especially for ornaments that may be used across the year. We measured several indicators of migratory and molt condition in male and female blackcaps ( Sylvia atricapilla) during their autumn migration, and quantified their crown reflectance. We detected robust correlations between migratory and molt condition indices, and the correlation structure was similar in the two sexes. Furthermore, the across‐season measure of body condition was positively related to the darkness of the black crown in males, while being unrelated to reflectance traits of the reddish crown in females. Our results reinforce the possibility that some melanin‐based ornaments may be year‐round indicators of individual quality via their dependence on nutritional condition.
We found a positive correlation between the expression of a melanin‐based plumage ornament and an across‐season measure of body condition. These findings support a mixed interpretation of the information content of melanin ornamentation, with the simultaneous presence of condition‐dependence and pleiotropy.