Hummingbirds take no notice of flower colour
by Tamera Jones
Hummingbirds pay no attention to what colour a flower is when figuring out whether to raid it for nectar, the latest research suggests. Instead, they seem to focus on flowers’ exact location.
The researchers who led the study say it’s not that the birds don’t see the colour of different flowers – just like us, they can see in colour throughout the visible spectrum. But location is a much more reliable source of information and overshadows any information provided by colour.
‘Although this goes against what you might expect – after all flowers must be coloured for a reason – our finding makes perfect sense,’ says Dr Sue Healy from the University of St Andrews, co-author of the study. ‘If they’ve fed from nectar-rich flowers before, that’s a more useful guide to whether those flowers will contain nectar in the future than colour is.’
Animals from dogs to butterflies and bees use colour to help them work out if something is likely to be a tasty meal. So it’s not too far-fetched to expect that the colour of flowers could be important to hummingbirds too. Scientists have also noticed that the flowers that hummingbirds typically visit for food are often red. This led them to wonder whether this is just coincidence, or whether the birds prefer red flowers…
(read more: Planet Earth Online) (photo: Ryan Bushby)