2022 Student Research Conference:
35th Annual Student Research Conference

Background Coloration Impacts Spectrometer Measurements of Bird Plumage


Zachary W. Williard
Dr. Joanna Hubbard, Faculty Mentor

Spectrometry is a widely used technique that provides objective measurements of plumage coloration. It is critical that spectrometry measurements quantify strictly feather coloration and not any ambient light or background coloration. We investigated whether the background (white vs. black) substrate impacts plumage color measurements. Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) and eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) feathers from multiple feather patches representing both structural and pigmentary colors were measured on both black and white card backgrounds. When we compared these spectrometry measurements, we found that background color has a significant impact on the resulting reflectance spectra and color descriptors extracted from the spectra. Specifically, lighter feathers, such as barn swallow belly feathers, had higher reflectance values when measured against the white background versus black background. We conclude that a black background should be used when performing spectrometry measurements to obtain the most accurate representation of feather color.

Keywords: Spectrometry, Plumage coloration, Barn swallow, Eastern bluebird

Topic(s):Biology

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Session: 2-7
Location: SUB Activities Room
Time: 3:00

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