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Ultraviolet vision and band-colour preferences in female zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata
journal contributionposted on 1997-12-01, 00:00 authored by S Hunt, I Cuthill, J Swaddle, Andy Bennett
Zebra finches have previously been found to have preferences for particular colours of both natural and artificial traits among opposite sex conspecifics. For example, in some studies female zebra finches preferred males wearing red leg bands to orange-banded and unbanded birds and rejected light green-banded males. In other studies, females also preferred males with red beaks to orange-beaked males. However, several authors have failed to replicate these results. We show that females may fail to show a colour preference because of the absence or removal of ultraviolet light under experimental conditions. In mate-choice trials, females observing males through filters that transmitted ultraviolet preferred red-banded males but where females viewed males through ultraviolet-blocking filters, no such preference was observed. Further investigation revealed that the lack of a colour preference when ultraviolet was absent was probably due to the change in overall appearance of the bird, rather than the change in appearance of the rings themselves. This work highlights the importance of proper consideration of the sensory capabilities of animals in experimental design, particularly with regard to the role of ultraviolet light in avian colour perception. (C) 1997 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.