Meeting Abstract

P3.3  Friday, Jan. 6  Color Oriented Neophobia and Sex Differences in the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) COOPER, LN*; HALL, FM; DAVIS, JE; Radford University; Virginia Tech; Radford University

When encountering novel stimuli, animals must carefully evaluate their approach. Determining the balance of caution and curiosity, and the concomitant degree of neophobia or neophilia to exhibit, is a complex process. Particular features of an object interact with particular traits of the organism to determine rapidity and depth of investigatory behavior. Color, in particular, is a stimulus feature which may prove particularly relevant to many passerine birds, given its natural association with food, sexual display, and potential hazards. However, insufficient standardization of stimuli have often made it difficult to interpret results of previous studies. Here we describe several studies designed to test the specific effects of varying colors on food approach behavior in captive housed wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Due to the color red’s particular use in signaling in natural stimuli, we predicted that subjects would exhibit more caution in approaching red colored items than in approaching items of other colors. In addition to testing color of stimulus, we also explored variation in response profiles across sexes. Numerous previous studies have suggested that males display more aggressive behaviors than do females, and so we predicted that males would approach food items faster than females, regardless of food color. Our results suggest that house sparrows do exhibit increased caution in approaching red items and also that males approach novel items faster in general than do females. However, preliminary data also suggest that birds do not show an overall aversion to choosing red items over items of other colors, so much as a delay in approach when red items are presented as an option.