The preferences of frugivorous birds for certain colors have been proposed to explain the evolution of fruit color, but evidence supporting this hypothesis is weak. Furthermore, evidence from tropical Asia is lacking, although in tropical Asia birds are more important seed dispersers than are their counterparts in other regions. We experimented with artificial fruit of five colors to evaluate the color preferences of six bird species (33 individuals, 2 families) from tropical Asia. We also checked whether contrast affects color detection by displaying red and green artificial fruits against green and red backgrounds. We found that five species had a consistent and strong preference for red, and one species preferred blue, with a low degree of variation among individuals. Species that preferred a certain color also consumed a small portion of fruit of different colors. Contrast increased the rate of consumption of green and red fruit in comparison with that against a monochrome background. Because all the species in this experiment showed a strong preference for a fruit color, we conclude that the interaction between frugivorous birds and fruit color may be tighter in tropical Asia than in other regions. Although contrast mediated the rate of consumption of red and green fruit to some degree, red was still the most preferred and green the least consumed.
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Vol. 115 • No. 3