EEB Seminar: January 9th 2014

Bob Montgomerie will talk on

Birds are more colourful than they look

at 12:30 in the EEB lounge (BioSciences 4338)

Recent technological advances have allowed us to measure accurately the colors that birds display, and to estimate what they see when they look at each other. The surprise is that they are much more colourful than they look to us, and that they can detect subtle differences in coloration that are invisible to us. Over the past 20 year my research group has studied the colours and displays of fairywrens and bowerbirds in Australia, ptarmigan and buntings in the high arctic, robins, swallows and goldfinches in Ontario, and feral peafowl in LA, NY and Toronto. I will use these studies to address what I think are some fascinating questions about the evolution of bird colours. Why are they so colourful? What do they look like to each other? Why are some colours so common and others so rare? How does the colour of their plumage influence mating and social interactions? Why are females of some species so brightly coloured? How do they use ambient light to enhance their colourful displays? Why do so many species lay colourful eggs? I hope you’ll wear your most colourful clothing to my presentation. Humans, like birds, are influenced by colors, and maybe that’s why we find them so fascinating.

Anna’s hummingbird

Bob Montgomerie is a professor and research chair in evolutionary biology at Queen’s University. Bob’s research interests are diverse, ranging from mating systems, sexual selection and sperm-competition, to plumage evolution, beauty and the history of ornithology. To tackle diverse questions, Bob has worked on a splendid variety of animals including birds, fishes, flies, snakes, frogs and humans to name a few. In 2010, Bob received the Elliot Coues Award from the American Ornithologists Union, which honors researchers who have made extraordinary contributions to our understanding of birds.

Everyone is welcome to attend
Coffee and treats right after the seminar