Certain insectivorous birds, such as the painted redstart (Myioborus pictus), undertake flush pursuit – a characteristic display that elicits an escape reaction by an insect, which the bird then chases in the air and eats. This account describes experiments showing that flush pursuit uses visual displays, which are likely to exploit an ancient neural circuit in dipteran insects, the visual systems of which are well documented as detecting looming stimuli and triggering an escape responses. Using models that decompose components of the redstart display, specific elements of the display were analyzed for their contribution in triggering visually induced escape behavior by dipterous insects. Elements tested were pivoting body movements, patterning on the spread tail and wings, and visual contrast of model redstarts against pale and dark backgrounds. We show that contrasting patterns within the plumage are crucial to foraging success, as is contrast of the bird against a background. Visual motion also significantly contributes to the successful flushing. In contrast, unpatterned models and patterned models that do not contrast with the background are less successful in eliciting escape responses of flies. Natural visual stimuli provided by Myioborus pictus are similar to those known to trigger looming and time-to-collision neurons in the escape circuits of flies and other insects, such as orthopterans. We propose that the tuning properties of these neural pathways might have contributed to the evolution of foraging displays in flush-pursuing birds.

Ali, S., and S.D. Ripley (1973) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Vol 8, Warblers to redstarts. Bombay, London, New York, Oxford University Press.
Bacon, J.P., and N.J. Strausfeld (1986) The dipteran ‘giant fibre’ pathway: neurons and signals. J. Comp. Physiol. B, 158: 529–548.
Barber, M.B., D.R Barber, and P.G. Jabłoński (2000) Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus). In The Birds of North America (ed. by A.Poole and F. Gill). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pa., and The American Ornithologist’s Union, Washington, D.C.
Beehler, B.M., T.K. Pratt, and D.A. Zimmerman (1986) Birds of New Guinea. University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Cameron, E. (1985) Habitat usage and foraging behaviour of three fantails (Rhipidura: Pachycephalidae). In Birds of Eucalyptus Forests and Woodlands: Ecology, Conservation, Management (ed. by A. Keast, H.F. Recher, H. Ford, and D. Saunders), Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union and Surrey Beatty and Sons, Sydney, Australia, pp. 177–191.
Eaton, R.C. (ed.) (1974) Neural Mechanisms of Startle Behavior. Plenum Press, New York.
Endler, J. (1992) Signals, signal conditions, and the direction of evolution. Am. Nat., 139: S125– S153.
Fleishman, L.J. (1985) Cryptic movement in the vine snake Oxybelis aeneus. Copeia, 1985: 242–245.
Gabbiani, F., H.G. Krapp, and G. Laurent (1999) Computation of object approach by wide-field motion sensitive neuron. J. Neurosci., 19: 1122–1141.
Gilbert, C., and N.J. Strausfeld (1992) Small-field neurons associated with oculomotor and optomotor control in Muscoid flies: functional organization. J. Comp. Neurol., 316: 72–86.
Hardie, R.C. (1986) The photoreceptor array of the dipteran retina. Trends Neurosci., 9: 419–423.
Harrison, C.J.O. (1976) Some aspects of adaptation and evolution in Australian fantailed flycatchers. Emu, 76: 115–119.
Hatsopoulos, N., F. Gabbiani, and G. Laurent (1995) Elementary computation of object approach by a wide-field visual neuron. Science, 270: 1000– 1003.
Holmqvist, M.H., and M.V. Srinivasan (1991) A visually evoked escape response of the housefly. J. Comp. Physiol. A, 169: 451–459.
Holmqvist, M.H. (1994) A visually elicited escape response in the fly that does not use the giant fiber pathway. Vis. Neurosci., 11: 1149–1161.
Howell, S.N.G., and S. Webb (1995) A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, Tokyo.
Jabłoński, P. (1993) Why Painted Redstarts fan their tails. SWRS News, The American Museum of Natural History, 8: 4–5.
Jabłoński, P. (1994) Adaptive significance of colour patterns in Painted Redstart. J. Ornithol., 135: Suppl. 147.
Jabłoński, P.G. (1996) Dark habitats and bright birds: warblers may use wing patches to flush prey. Oikos, 75: 350–352.
Jabłoński, P.G. (1999) A rare predator exploits prey escape behavior: the role of tail-fanning and plumage contrast in foraging of the painted redstart (Myioborus pictus). Behav. Ecol., 10: 7–14.
Keast, A., L. Pearce, and S. Saunders (1995) How convergent is the American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla, Parulinae) with flycatchers (Tyrannidae) in morphology and feeding behavior? Auk, 112: 310–325.
King, D.G., and K.L. Valentino (1983) On neuronal homology: a comparison of similar axons in Musca, Sarcophaga and Drosophila (Diptera: Schizophora). J. Comp. Neurol., 219: 1–9.
MacDougall, A., and M.S. Dawkins (1998) Predator discrimination error and the benefits of Müllerian mimicry. Anim. Behav., 55: 1281– 1288.
Malcolm, S.B. (1990) Mimicry: status of a classical evolutionary paradigm. Trends Ecol. Evol., 5: 57–62.
Marchetti, K. (1993) Dark habitats and bright birds illustrate the role of the environment in species divergence. Nature, 362: 149–152.
Marchetti, K., and T. Price (1997) The adaptive significance of colour patterns in the Old World Leaf warblers genus Phylloscopus. Oikos, 79: 410–412.
Milde, J.J., and N.J. Strausfeld (1990) Cluster organization and response characteristics of the giant fiber pathway of the blowfly Calliphora erythrocephala. J. Comp. Neurol., 294: 59–75.
Moynihan, M. (1962) The organization and probable evolution of some mixed species flocks of neotropical birds. Smithsonian Misc. Coll., 143: 1–140.
Pascual J.A., and J. Peris-Salvador (1992) Nestling body mass and nestling mortality associated with the application of the ligature method in the spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor). J. Ornithol., 133: 381–387.
Pearson, K.G., and M. O’Shea (1985) Escape behavior of the locust. The jump and its initiation by visual stimuli. In Natural Mechanisms of Startle Behavior (ed. by R. Eaton), Plenum Press, New York, pp. 163–178.
Pizzey, G. (1980) A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Collins, Sydney, Australia.
Remsen, J.V., and S.K. Robinson (1990) A classification scheme for foraging behavior of birds in terrestrial habitats. Stud. Avian Biol., 13: 144– 160.
Rind, C.F., and D.I. Bramwell (1996) Neural network based on the input organization of an identified neuron signaling impending collision. J. Neurophysiol., 75: 967–985.
Rind, F.C., and P.J. Simmons (1992) Orthopteran DCMD Neuron: a reevaluation of responses to moving objects. I. Selective responses to approaching objects. J. Neurophysiol., 68: 1655– 1666.
Robinson, S.K., and R.T. Holmes (1982) Foraging behavior of forest birds: the relationships among search tactics, diet and habitat structure. Ecology, 63: 1918–1931.
Ryan, M.J. (1990) Sexual selection, sensory systems, and sensory exploitation. Oxford Surv. Evol. Biol., 7: 157–195.
Ryan, M.J. (1998) Sexual selection, receiver biases, and the evolution of sex differences. Science, 281: 1999–2003.
Ryan, M.J., J.H. Fox, W. Wilczynski, and A.S. Rand (1990) Sexual selection for sensory exploitation in the frog Physalemus pustulosus. Nature, 343: 66–67.
Sargent, T.D. (1966) Background selections of geometrid and noctuid moths. Science, 154: 1674–1675.
Shaw, R.S. (1989) The retina-lamina pathway in insects, particularly Diptera, viewed from an evolutionary perspective. In Facets of Vision (ed. by P.G. Stavenga and R.C. Hardie), Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 186– 212.
Sherry, T.W. (1984) Comparative dietary ecology of sympatric, insectivorous neotropical flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Ecol. Monogr., 54: 319– 338.
Sibley, C.G., and J.E. Ahlquist (1986) Phylogeny and classification of new world suboscine passerine birds (Passeriformes: Oligomyodi: Tyrannides). Ornithol. Monogr., 36: 396–405.
Sibley, C.G., and J.E. Ahlquist (1990) Phylogeny and Classification of Birds. A Study in Molecular Evolution. Yale University Press, New Haven, London.
Simmons, P.J., and F.C. Rind (1992) Orthopteran DCMD Neuron: a reevaluation of responses to moving objects. II. Critical cues for detecting approaching objects. J. Neurophysiol., 68: 1667–1692.
Speed, M.P. (1993) Müllerian mimicry and the psychology of predation. Anim. Behav., 45: 571–580.
Speed, M.P. (1999) Robot predators in virtual ecologies: the importance of memory in mimicry studies. Anim. Behav., 57: 203–213.
Strausfeld, N.J., and U.K. Bassemir (1983) Cobalt-coupled neurons of a giant fibre system in Diptera. J. Neurocytol., 12: 971–991
Tanouye, M.A., and D.G. King (1983) Giant fibre activation of direct flight muscles in Drosophila. J. Exp. Biol., 105: 241–251.
Tanouye, M.A., and R.J. Wyman (1980) Motor outputs of the giant nerve fibre in Drosophila. J. Neurophysiol., 44: 405–421.
Trimarchi, J.R., and A.M. Schneiderman (1993) Giant fiber activation of an intrinsic muscle in the mesothoracic leg of Drosophila melanogaster. J. Exp. Biol., 177: 149–167.
Trimarchi, J.R., and A.M. Schneiderman (1995a) Different neural pathways coordinate Drosophila flight initiations evoked by visual and olfactory stimuli. J. Exp. Biol., 198: 1099– 1104.
Trimarchi, J.R., and A.M. Schneiderman (1995b) Flight initiations in Drosophila melanogaster are mediated by several distinct motor patterns. J. Comp. Physiol. A, 176: 355–364.
Wyman, R.J., J.B. Thomas, L. Salkoff, and D.G. King (1985) The Drosophila giant fiber system. In Natural Mechanisms of Startle Behavior (ed. by R. Eaton), Plenum Press, New York, pp. 133–161.
Zar, J.H. (1996) Biostatistical Analysis. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Copyright / Drug Dosage / Disclaimer
Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.
You do not currently have access to this content.