Recent studies of colorful plumage signals in birds have been aided by the finding that birds can see ultraviolet (UV) light and thus may communicate using colors invisible to humans. Some of the pioneering and more pivotal work on avian color vision was performed with domestic pigeons (Columba livia), yet surprisingly there have been few detailed reports of the UV-reflecting properties of pigeon feathers. Here, I use UV-VIS fiber-optic spectrometry to document the full-spectrum reflectance characteristics of iridescent purple and green neck plumage in pigeons. Neck feathers that appear purple to the human eye exhibit four reflectance peaks -two in the UV and one in the blue and red regions - and thus exhibit a UV-purple hue. Neck feathers that appear green to the human eye are characterized by five spectral peaks: two in the UV (UVA and UVB), a predominant green peak, and secondary violet and red peaks, conferring a UV-purple-green color. Such elaborate UV coloration suggests that birds may use an even more complex and 'hidden' UV signaling system than previously thought.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics