How do birds get their colors?

The most captivating creature of nature is birds. Their colors of beauty make them an attracting site to behold. A lot of people do wonder how the birds come about their colors.

Some of the birds aren’t that colorful but we have some that look like it an artistic creation because of their beautiful contrasts and combinations.

How do birds get their colors


  1. How do they get their colors?
  2. Pigments
  3. Keratins

How do they get their colors?

We have a variety of colors on birds that we tend to know how did the colors come to pass. According to science and research, we now know that there are two factors which are very important that is responsible for giving the birds their different shades of colors.

These are the pigments and the keratin. The two factors that are names are defined in different ways in different types of birds which result in their final shade of color.

How do birds get their colors


This can be named as the color makers which you can find in plants and animals both. They would soak up some certain colors and they would make a reflection of the others. It’s the one that the pigments have reflected that catches the eyes of human beings.

The pigment can be grouped into four:

  • Melanin: this is usually formed as the tiny granules in the feather or skin of a bird. It manufactures colors such as a reddish brown, dark brown, pale yellow, rust or even black. The shade majorly depends on where the bird is and also where the melanin is concentrated on the bird. It doesn’t only give colors to the bird, it also gives the feathers strength too.
  • Carotenoids: this is majorly present in plants. Observation has been made from the researchers that when a bird eats this plants or its seed which contains carotenoids they do have orange, red, or even yellow shades. Birds that have melanin and carotenoids combined together in them usually have shades of color of green-something like olive green. So carotenoids have an important role in deciding the color of a bird.

Flamingos that are majorly pink do get their pink color from what they eat such as blue-green algae and also shrimps. The carotenoids would break down in the liver after that then a molecular form of it would be moved to their legs, skin, beaks and their feathers which would result into their pink shade.

  • Porphyrins: these are amino acids which are modified and they are essential. Its something that is very rare and they can be seen in limited species of birds. They manufacture colors like red, pink, green and also brown. This is what gave the African turacos the green and the red shades.
  • Psittacines: this is found in birds only such as parrots. It gives it the color of orange, red, and yellow colors.

A lot of color shades in birds are the result of the pigment mixtures. When you see a bird that has many shades is as a result of three or more pigments.

How do birds get their colors


Keratin is another way of how birds get their beautiful colors. This is a type of protein that makes the feathers of the birds get tough and helps in strengthening them. The protein also helps their legs, feet and the bills. Keratin does work in two different ways which are the scattering and the layering

  • Layering: in this process, a short wavelength of the colors such as green, purple and also blue would be reflected through a translucent layer of the keratin. The other colors would be sucked up by the layer that has melanin – that’s the black.
  • Scattering: this process is possible through the submicroscopic construction of the feathers of the bird. The central layer of the cells in the feather would be rounded by a cloudy layer. This process would make the light waves to get scattered. When the light waves have scattered it would interact in a way that is called constructive interference. If the light catches the eyes we would be seeing a blue color. An example of this is Indigo buntings and the Eastern bluebirds.

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