Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 9, pp 1499–1506 | Cite as

Strong effects of various incidence and observation angles on spectrometric assessment of plumage colouration in birds

  • S. I. C. O. SantosEmail author
  • L. De Neve
  • J. T. Lumeij
  • M. I. Förschler


The assessment of plumage colouration has become a common procedure in many ornithological studies, especially after the discovery of differences between avian and human visual systems, namely the avian ability to perceive ultraviolet wavelengths. There are many techniques available for plumage colour assessment. Nevertheless, unidirectional reflectance spectrometry seems actually to be the method of choice and is used in most studies. The active avian visual communication skills, the physical characteristics of the plumage surface and the birds’ body shape prompted us to study plumage colouration with different angles of incidence and observation by bidirectional reflectance spectrometry. In this study, we explore the effect of different angles of incidence and observation, on a single plane of incidence, on the reflectance spectrometric assessment of five differently coloured body regions of the blue fronted Amazon parrot (Amazona aestiva). Measurements were made using a AVS-USB2000 spectrometer with a DH-2000 light source and two different reflection probes (bifurcated fibre optic probe and a specially designed fibre holder). The results of this study illustrate clear angle dependence of colour parameters in differently coloured non-iridescent plumage regions of the blue fronted Amazon parrot. Our results may have direct implications on the observed transmitted information of display and its associated predation risk (trade-off) in birds, but also in other animals. Moreover, the results show that unidirectional reflectance spectrometry alone may be a rather limited procedure to quantify and compare true colour of a complex surface such as birds’ plumage. Therefore, slight but behavioural important characteristics of plumage pattern may remain undiscovered with this method.


Angle geometry Colour assessment Avian colour Reflectance Spectrometry 



We are grateful to Brian Elward for his assistance with the measurements and to all the technicians of the Division of Avian and Exotic Animal Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Utrecht University. Furthermore, we would like to thank all the persons willing to volunteer their animals for this research: Dennis Jansen, Bert Deiman, Stichting Papegaaienhulp and Mark Jansen. This research was funded by an investigation grant provided by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), SFRH/BD/3405/2000, Portugal. All the procedures were performed with permission from the animal experimentation committee at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (DEC 0404.0703).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. I. C. O. Santos
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. De Neve
    • 3
  • J. T. Lumeij
    • 4
  • M. I. Förschler
    • 2
  1. 1.ICFO-Institut de Ciencies FotoniquesCastelldefelsSpain
  2. 2.Institute of Avian Research (IfV), “Vogelwarte Helgoland”WilhelmshavenGermany
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias, Dep. Biologia AnimalCampus Universitario FuentenuevaGranadaSpain
  4. 4.Division of Avian and Exotic Animal Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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