Bird feathers - colour

Subject: Bird feathers - colour
From: (Shane Raidal)
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 16:04:50 +0800
Des Allen wrote :

>I find this topic interesting. King et al (Birds of Southeast Asia) state
>that the plumage of the Green Magpie (Cissa sp.) "changes to pale blue in
>captivity, in ill health and after death." Why might this be? Also Dusky
>Green Fulvetta (Alcippe cinerea) becomes dusky in the museum drawer (I
>hear) but is much brighter yellowish in life.    -  THEY FADE !

I don't know much about the Green Magpie, I guess the explanation depends on 
the degree of colour change experienced during "ill health" and after death. 
 If it is subtle it could be due to whatever yellow pigment is in the 
feathers.  Maybe they rely on a certain plant pigment which is hard to 
duplicate in captivity?  

>>Lucas and Stettenheim (1972) Avian Anatomy - Integument, Parts I and II, 
>>Agricultural Handbook 362, Agricultural Research Service, USDA. 

This reference is very hard to get a hold of.  It will answer some of your 
questions but will not provided sufficient info on UV reflectance.   There 
is not much written on this subject in journals either.....  

>>Also many parrots have feather pigments which fluoresce under UV light.
>I'd be very interested to know what is known about the UV reflectance of
>bird plumages. This could be important in understanding the taxonomic
>status of allopatric forms - for example, the various island sspp of
>Philippine Hanging Parrot but also Pittas etc etc. It might also tell us
>how likely we are to be visible to the birds in ways in which we are
>unaware. Perhaps aviculturists know more about this than birders.
Can't answer all these questions.  There was a short article on UV 
reflectance of parrot feathers (I think by Walter Boles) in BIRDS 
International several years back.  This journal is now defunct and I don't 
know how you would get a hold of it.  

P.S. I don't think there would be many "aviculturists" that would know about 
feather pigments....  

 Does anyone have a reference to the sensitivity of the avian retina to UV 


Dr Shane Raidal BVSc PhD MACVSc (Avian Health)
Lecturer in Veterinary Pathology
School of Veterinary Studies                
Murdoch University                 phone:  +61 9 360 2418
Perth,WA, 6150                            fax:  +61 9 310 4144  

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