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Avoidance of dyed food by the northern bobwhite

By F. N. Mastrota, J. A. Mench

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Since certain colours are aversive to birds, the authors suggest that it might be possible to use dyes to prevent birds from consuming agricultural seeds and pesticide granules. The effectiveness of 8 dyes in repelling food consumption in a gamebird, the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), was therefore evaluated. 40 adult birds were tested using a 2-cup procedure to measure avoidance of dyed feed relative to undyed feed for 5 days. Pairs of feeds treated with different dyes were also tested to determine their relative repellency. Bobwhite hens avoided dyed feed significantly more than did bobwhite cocks. Hens avoided feed dyed certain shades of red, orange, blue and blue-green, whereas cocks did not avoid feed of any colour. Hens became largely habituated to food dyed colours other than red or orange within 5 days, suggesting that the initial avoidance was caused by neophobia. The more persistent avoidance of red and orange dyes may be evidence of non-learned aversions by bobwhites to the warning colours found in toxic prey. It is concluded that while bright red or orange dyes thus appear to be aversive to bobwhite hens, the lack of avoidance of these colours by cocks may limit their usefulness as avian feeding repellents.

Date 1994
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 42
Issue 2
Pages 109-119
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Marine-Estuarine-Environmental Sciences Program, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Birds
  4. Color
  5. Diets
  6. Feeding behavior
  7. Feed preferences
  8. Food preferences
  9. Game animals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Sex
  12. taste
  1. peer-reviewed