Thursday, March 16, 2017

These are a Few of My Favorite Things ...

Birds and Colors!

This is our third year here at Piney Place, and during the prior two winters we've had flocks of Wild Turkeys visiting daily. This winter, not so much. Perhaps because it was so mild and thus didn't need to visit the feeders?

But this evening we had two wander through the yard.

And just look at those feathers. Those wonderfully colorful feathers.

Notice how the colors change as the bird moves and the angle between viewer, bird, and sun changes.

And how in the shade the feather colors vanish, but the head and leg colors remain.


There are two main sources of color in birds, pigments and structure. The red in the head and legs is due to pigments. The iridescent colors in the feathers are due to the structure of those feathers.

The pigments come from the food the birds eat. Flamingos are pink because of the pigments in the shrimp that make up their diet (I'm simplifying a bit here).

Bluejays, on the other hand, have no blue pigment in their feathers. Rather the keratin that the feathers are made of reflects and refracts the light in such a way as to look blue. Likewise with the colors seen in our turkey above, it is the feathers acting like prisms. More info can be found at these Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon sites.

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