The good genes hypothesis of sexual selection postulates that ornamentation signals superior genetic quality to potential mates. Support for this hypothesis comes from studies on male ornamentation only, while it remains to be shown that female ornamentation may signal genetic quality as well. Female barn owls (Tyto alba) display more black spots on their plumage than males. The expression of this plumage trait has a genetic basis and it has been suggested that males prefer to mate with females displaying more black spots. Given the role of parasites in the evolution of sexually selected traits and of the immune system in parasite resistance, we hypothesize that the extent of female plumage ‘spottiness’ reflects immunological defence. We assessed the genetic variation in specific antibody production against a non–pathogenic antigen among cross–fostered nestlings and studied its covariation with the plumage spottiness of genetic parents. The magnitude of the antibody response was positively correlated with the plumage spottiness of the genetic mother but not of the genetic father. Our study thereby provides the first experimental support, to our knowledge, for the hypothesis that female ornamentation signals genetic quality.