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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding avian vision: the key to using light in bird management


Vision is a primary and highly developed sensory pathway in birds. Light, both diffuse and wavelength-specific (e.g., as produced by lasers) has recently been demonstrated as a potential means of effecting changes in timing and consistency of flock response to an approaching vehicle (simulating an aircraft) and as an avian dispersal method. However, in experiments to date, the effectiveness of light in eliciting an avoidance or dispersal response in birds has varied by species and context. To effectively use light in managing avian conflicts with humans, a better understanding of the complexities of avian retinal physiology relative to phototaxic responses to the environment is necessary. My objectives are to provide an overview of research pertaining to 1) anatomical features of the avian eye and 2) the ecological implications of retinal wavelength sensitivity, and 3) discuss the application of light for resolving avian conflicts with humans. I also suggest that future evaluations of light-based management methods for birds should include integration of aposematic colors and color pattern treatments for seeds and in combination with chemical repellents, as well as quantification of the effects of light wavelength, pulse frequency, and beam configurations of lasers, and aircraft-mounted light in eliciting avian dispersal and avoidance behavior.

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