Recent experiments (Dittrich et al. (Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 251, 195 (1993))) suggest that pigeon perception of wasp mimicry by hoverflies is similar to that of humans and of computer-based image matching. However, the relations are nonlinear and may explain why some species are abundant despite their being poor mimics to the human eye. We suggest that these discrepancies between pigeon and human categorization may lie in the differences between avian and primate colour vision. As pigeon categorization and computer image analysis were both assessed by using colour slides designed for human vision, they lacked the natural colour information available to wild birds, in particular that from ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths.