more bird skins

In case Friday’s blog post didn’t have enough birds in it–and I don’t know how that possibly could have been enough birds for anyone–here are some more.

The day after I interviewed the scientist at Yale for my blue feathers story, I sat in on a lab for the ornithology class he teaches. It was the day they were doing feathers, so there were tons of bird skins out on the benches and feathers to look at under the microscope and so on. This didn’t make it into the story at all, but wow, it was cool to look at all the different feathers. Birds are amazing.

Here’s how you fit a flamingo into a museum drawer.

Those birds all get their yellows, reds, and oranges from carotenoid pigments. You may have heard of carotenoids–they’re one of those things you’re supposed to eat. In the body, they’re converted into retinol, a form of vitamin A.

This bowerbird has a very splashy bit of hot pink at the back of his neck.

There are about 20 species of bowerbirds. They’re native to Australia and New Zealand, and they have this crazy mating thing: Males build a little stage, or bower, to show off their awesomeness to females. Look, I can’t do this justice. Go watch this David Attenborough video about bowerbirds. You won’t be sorry.

These birds use a combination of pigments and structural colors. Remember, green is yellow (pigment) plus blue (structural).

This bird may not look like much in the visible spectrum, but in UV–which birds can see–it is a super exciting bright color.

So there you go. More birds. If you missed the story I was reporting, read about blue feathers.

This entry was posted in My Work and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to more bird skins

  1. Glyn says:

    Awww! It’s got a pink scarf!