U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Physiology & Behavior 106 (2012) 597–601; doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.007


Birds utilize ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths for plumage signaling and sexual selection. Ultraviolet cues may also be used for the process of avian food selection. The aim of our study was to investigate whether a UV cue and a postingestive repellent can be used to condition food avoidance in red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). We found that birds conditioned with an UV-absorbent, postingestive repellent subsequently avoided UV-absorbent food. Thus, the UV-absorbent cue (coupled with 0–20% of the conditioned repellent concentration) was used to maintain avoidance for up to 18 days post-conditioning. Similarly, birds conditioned with the UV-absorbent, postingestive repellent subsequently avoided UV-reflective food. Thus, conditioned avoidance of an UV-absorbent cue can be generalized to an unconditioned, UV-reflective cue for nutrient selection and toxin avoidance. These findings support the hypothesized function of UV vision for avian food selection, the implications of which remain to be explored for the sensory and behavioral ecology within agronomic and natural environments.