COLOURS OF FEATHER

Feathers, are important parts of a bird’s flying equipment’. A bird’s tail feathers are used for lifting, steering, and breaking, and these are perfectly symmetrical, to allow a balanced and smooth flight.

Along the sides of a bird’s feathers are barbs, which if separated, look like a fringe, or even like the threads that stick out from the edge of a piece of unstitched cloth. Since these barbs end in hooks, they hook on to one another efficiently, making a strong, but light flying wing.

There here are two sources of feather colour- pigments, and the physical structure of the feather. Many feathers are coloured by a combination of these features. Pigments are chemical compounds that absorb certain wavelengths of light while reflecting others. The colours you see are those reflected back. Feathers coloured by pigments, range from crow black to canary yellow, and cardinal red.



Many colours, such as blue, are a result of feather structure. When light hits these feathers, it hits microscopic structures on the feather that act as prisms to reflect a colour.
No blue pigment is known in birds. Shimmering iridescent colours such as those found in peacocks, are caused by special structures, air bubbles, or films on feather surfaces.

These modifications interfere with the bending and scattering of light to strengthen some wavelengths, and cancel out others.

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