Ultraviolet (UV) light perception by birds: a review

https://doi.org/10.17221/110/2009-VETMEDCitation:Rajchard J. (2009): Ultraviolet (UV) light perception by birds: a review. Veterinarni Medicina, 54: 351-359.
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The ability to perceive the near ultraviolet part of the light spectrum (the wavelength 320–400 nm) has been detected in many bird species. This ability is an important bird sense. The ecological importance of UV perception has been studied mainly in the context of intra- and inter-sexual signalling, common species communication and also in foraging. Some birds of prey use UV reflectance in their feeding strategy: e.g., the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), but also other birds of prey are able to recognize the presence of voles by perceiving the UV reflectance of their scent urine marks. The ability to detect the presence of prey is a common feature of birds with analogous feeding spectra in taxonomically distinct species. UV perception and its use in foraging have also been proved in predominantly herbivorous bird species. This ability is possessed both by bird species living in northern habitats and others living in tropical forests. The signalling and communication role of the UV perception is very important. The plumage of many bird species shows specific colour features – e.g., sexually different regions in plumage coloration unnoticed by the human eye. Also other body parts can have similar features – e.g., supra-orbital combs in the red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus). All these characteristics are important primarily in the mate-choice decision. Birds apparently also use their ability of UV perception for recognition of their own eggs. Some bird species are able to modify plumage UV reflectance by uropygial secretions. The knowledge of all specific aspects of bird physiology can significantly help both breeders of various bird species and facilitate effective veterinary care.
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