Gull plumages are, and are not, what they appear to human vision

Annales Zoologici Fennici
By: , and 



Clear correlations between human and bird visual assessments of color have been documented, and are often assumed, despite fundamental differences in human and avian visual physiology and morphology. Analyses of plumage colors with avian perceptual models have shown widespread hidden inter-sexual and inter-specific color variation among passerines perceived as monochromatic to humans, highlighting the uncertainty of human vision to predict potentially relevant variation in color. Herein, we use reflectance data from 13 Larus gull species as an exemplar data set to study concordance between human vision and avian visual modeling of feather colors near, or below, the human threshold for discrimination. We found little evidence among gulls for sexual dichromatism hidden from human vision, but did find inter-specific color variation among gulls that is not seen by humans. Neither of these results were predictable a priori, and we reassert that reflectance measurements of actual feather colors, analyzed with avian relevant visual models, represent best practice when studying bird coloration.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Gull plumages are, and are not, what they appear to human vision
Series title Annales Zoologici Fennici
DOI 10.5735/086.059.0116
Volume 59
Issue 1
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Description 7 p.
First page 187
Last page 203
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