DTI001 20_12_17 

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Thousands of bird species held on coloration database

shutterstock 303243491MORE THAN 3,000 avian species have been represented so far in the largest international database of bird plumage coloration – but now the lead organiser needs funding to make it public.

BirdColourBase was started three years ago after lead organiser Dr Thanh-Lan Gluckman wanted to pool global data using a physics-based approach of describing bird colours together into one database. The information will be publicised in due course if funding is secured.

At present, 17 research labs in eight countries including the UK, Portugal and Australia have contributed data.

Dr Gluckman told C&AB that understanding the processes behind birds’ plumage colour will enable researchers to learn more about their evolution and natural history.

She explained: “I have data representing all Australian species, such as zebra finches and cockatoos, and most of the robins, starlings and tanagers from North America and Europe. But there are approximately 40 families that still need to be sampled, which is less than 20 per cent of all bird families in the world.

“I hope to complete data collection within the next three to four months and to curate it within six months. After this, it will take 18-24 months to test some hypotheses of bird evolution, build a website for the data and make it publicly available.”

Now a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the project and build the data website.

Incentives including framed prints from French natural history artist Adolphe Millot will be given to donators who pledge a certain amount.

The Australian Finch Society (AFS) has already backed the database. Chairman Dave Harris said: “The AFS has always tried to maintain a link to the scientific community as we feel that aviculture has a lot to offer them.”

● For details on how to donate, visit: https://crowd.science/campaigns/birdcolourbase, follow @BirdColourBase on Twitter or search “Bird ColourBase” on Facebook.

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