Why Are Birds Different Colors?

published on July 20, 2020

There are thousands of species of birds here on earth and with those great numbers come great biodiversity verge are among the most colorful animals on the planet and scientifically speaking it's because different species can employ a wide range of chemical and

Physical tricks to make them stand out or disappear depending on what suits them when looking at the plumage of a bird there are really two factors that define the color that you see pigmentation and

Structure pigments are chemicals that absorb certain wavelengths of visible light leaving the remaining light to be reflected from a surface to give it its color while structural colors are produced by the way that the physical

Structure of the feather interacts with visible light birds are also tetrachromatic which means they can see four colors all the colors that we see plus they can also reach into the UV spectrum too this has led certain

Species of birds to develop plumages that are more complex than we can even perceive there's a variety of forms of pigmentation in birds but we're gonna focus on three different kinds carotenoids melanin and porphyrins some

Of these pigments are produced in Birds bodies while others are taken from food sources different species of birds use different combinations of them to create unique looking plumage 'as carotenoids are a diet based class of pigments that

Birds ingest from food and deposited into their feathers these yellow to red pigments give foods like carrots and corn their color carotenoids are broken into two subgroups oxygen-containing xanthophylls and oxygen less carotenes

Flamingos for example are gray when they're young but after eating enough carotenoid containing brine shrimp and algae they become pink other birds metabolize the ingested carotenoids to create their color which is how yellow

Canaries get their yellow and how cardinals get their red melanin is a pigment found in many animal species including ourselves unlike carotenoids these pigments are produced in the feather by special cells

Called melanocytes and there are two different types eumelanin creates blacks and grays while pheomelanin is often buff brown or chestnut in tone what makes melanin stand out from other pigments is that it also acts to

Reinforce the structure of a feather strengthening the wings for flight this is why the tips of feathers and the feathers on wings are darker one of the less common forms of bird pigmentation comes from compounds called porphyrins

Generally these web-like molecules are responsible vibrant colors in biology hemoglobin and chlorophyll are good examples in birds these usually produce different shades of brown as in the feathers of owls and

Buster's but also can create vibrant reds and greens as in birds like torrucos but what really makes porphyrin stand out to birds is that they fluoresce in a bright red under UV light beyond pigments so-called structural

Coloration also can generate a diverse array of feather colors these are produced in feather Barb's and barbules by micro structures that can absorb or scatter different wavelengths of light to produce a range of colors and

Visually striking effects first and most basic white comes from the unpigmented keratin layer on the exterior of a barb the intensity and brightness of the white is dependent on how light is bounced around by tiny air vacuums

Inside to create structural colors like blue in an area just below the keratin exterior keratin rods and air vacuoles of various shapes and sizes assemble together and scatter or absorb certain colors of light bouncing off another to

Produce what you see it's then backed by a black layer of melanin to make sure the effect isn't wrecked from light coming in the other direction this type of structural color can create ultraviolet patterns to angle dependent

Effects of these colors are also possible which is the case for iridescent the physical cause is similar to how structural blue is made the way light bends off the structures changes our perception of colour based off the

Angle of viewing in the incidence of light also nano structures and some bird feathers can take almost all light away – producing a black that's blacker than black researchers discovered recently that structures and birds-of-paradise

Are so effective at repeatedly bouncing light that they absorb 9995% of the light that hits them these many different methods of producing color can combine to create the amazingly colorful spread of bird feathers we never asked

How many bird watchers do we have out there bird science is a recent discovery for us and we want some more topics to cover post them down in the comments below thanks for watching

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