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Rapid Behavioural Adjustments to Unfavourable Light Conditions in European Starlings (Sturnus Vulgaris)

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Although it is known that many birds possess ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive vision, most commercially housed poultry species, as well as species held in zoos, laboratories, or bred for show, are maintained under lighting that is deficient in UV wavelengths compared with normal daylight. UV-sensitive vision has been shown to be important in both foraging and mate-choice decisions. UV-poor conditions, in which information in this waveband is eliminated. could, therefore, present an important welfare issue. Eight European starlings were given a series of preference tests (eight hours per trial, for six days), in which they could choose to feed in one of four channels. Four experimental trials were carried out, during which the channels were covered in either UV-transmitting (UV+) or UV-blocking (UV-) filters, to determine whether birds had an initial preference for feeding in UV-rich environments and whether there was any change in their preference over time. There was an initial preference for the UV+ environment, but this preference declined very rapidly with familiarity, and was absent by the final trial. These results imply that starlings can rapidly adjust their feeding behaviour if faced with unfamiliar light environments and that any initial behavioural changes attributable to UV-deficient environments may be short-lived. However, further work is necessary to establish whether these adjustments occur across a range of species and contexts before any welfare concerns can be ruled out.


Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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