Ecology: ultraviolet reflectance by the skin of nestlings

Nature. 2004 Sep 16;431(7006):262. doi: 10.1038/431262a.


Birds can perceive the reflectance of ultraviolet light by biological structures. Here we show that the skin of the mouth and body of starling nestlings substantially reflects light in the ultraviolet range and that young in which this reflectance is reduced will gain less mass than controls, despite low background levels of ultraviolet and visible light in the nest. We suggest that this ultraviolet reflectance from starling nestlings and its contrast with surrounding surfaces are important for parental decisions about food allocation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / radiation effects
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology*
  • Nesting Behavior / radiation effects
  • Phylogeny
  • Resource Allocation
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Songbirds / growth & development
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Switzerland
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • United Kingdom