Color and side preferences in Palestine sunbirds (Nectarinia osea)

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Floral color is an important cue that converged in many ornithophilous flowers and can be used by nectarivorous birds to make foraging decisions. Wild ornithophilous flowers are frequently red, although they are more often yellow in Israel. The Palestine sunbird (Nectarinia osea) is the only nectarivorous bird in Israel and surrounding Mediterranean areas. Given the prevalence of yellow flowers in their habitats (along with sunbirds' expected sensitivity increase in this region of color vision), we predicted that Palestine sunbirds prefer yellow food sources over red. We examined sunbird foraging behavior when they were presented simultaneously with a yellow and red feeder, each containing the same quantity and quality of food. We investigated whether sunbirds had a side bias in the color preference experiment, but also in a separate experiment where both feeders were white. Sunbirds did not exhibit a significant color bias, while they did have a significant preference for a particular side of the cage. Location appears to be a more important cue than color to Palestine sunbirds, likely because location can offer information on the most rewarding plants and recently depleted flowers. However, color may still provide useful information that could influence foraging decisions in different contexts.

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