Chattanooga Softball Gets Alabama Regional With Alabama, Stanford, Murray State

Ask the Naturalist – How do Birds get Their Colors?

Friday, April 18, 2008 - by Kyle Waggener, Chattanooga Nature Center
<i>Cardinal ... a.k.a. Redbird</i>
Cardinal ... a.k.a. Redbird

Colors in birds usually come from pigments. Pigments absorb certain colors and reflect others - the reflected colors are what we see. Pigments can be divided into several groups: melanins, carotenoids, porphyrins and psittacins. Some colors are caused by the “nanosturcture” of the feathers and produce an “optical illusion.”

The most common type of pigment is melanin. Most brown, black, gray and some yellow colors are produced by melanin. Melanin is very strong and is made up of chemicals found in the bird’s body. Some birds have black wingtips to prevent wear on their flight feathers.

Carotenoid pigments come from birds’ diets. These pigments reflect red, yellow or orange colors. Male Northern Cardinals’ bright red color comes from eating different seeds and berries (mostly from Flowering Dogwood berries). The carotenoids are stored in the cardinal’s liver and then moves into their bloodstream during their molting process and are deposited in their new feathers as they start to grow. So a bad season of Dogwood berries might mike a male Cardinal less attractive to the ladies next year.

Porphyrins are very rare and are only found in a few groups of birds. This group of pigments gives African birds called turacos their green and red colors. Porphyrins also give owls and nightjars (Whip-poor-wills and Nighthawks) their reddish-brown feathers.

Psittacins are only found in parrots and produce their bright red, yellow and orange colors.

There are no blue pigments in any birds in the world. So why do Eastern bluebirds and Indigo Buntings look so brilliant? The answer is the sub-microscopic structure of the bird’s feathers. There is a central layer of cells with melanin in them surrounded by a “cloudy” layer that scatters the light waves in such a way that they interact with each other in a process called “constructive interference” causing the light to look blue when it reaches our eyes. If you were to look an Indigo Bunting in the shade it looks gray compared to when it’s out in full sunlight. White, most green colors and the throat patch or “gorget” found on hummingbirds also comes from feather structure.

Be on the lookout for many brilliantly colored birds that can be found at the Nature Center especially during the spring migration and mating season.

<i>Whippoorwill</i>
Whippoorwill

Love, Erin Donates Barn Owl To Reflection Riding

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conducts 5-Year Status Reviews Of 35 Southeastern Species

Skull Island Campground Reopens After Complete Renovation


Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center will welcome the organization donating a baby Barn Owl to the nature center this Saturday, at 1 p.m. The owl is being donated by Love, Erin, based ... (click for more)

As part of the process mandated by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct five-year status reviews of 35 endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and ... (click for more)

Vista Recreation (formerly RRM) in a partnership agreement with TVA, announces the reopening of Skull Island Campground after years of closure due to deferred maintenance issues. Skull Island ... (click for more)



Outdoors

Love, Erin Donates Barn Owl To Reflection Riding

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center will welcome the organization donating a baby Barn Owl to the nature center this Saturday, at 1 p.m. The owl is being donated by Love, Erin, based in Asheville, N.C. The baby barn owl, whose name will be unveiled on Saturday, will be present on Saturday for a limited time for pictures. “We were in the process of acquiring a barn ... (click for more)

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conducts 5-Year Status Reviews Of 35 Southeastern Species

As part of the process mandated by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct five-year status reviews of 35 endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and plants. These species are found primarily in the Southeastern United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but are also known to occur in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Woman Gets 6-Year Suspended Sentence In 2018 Stabbing Death Of George Deramus

A woman charged in the stabbing death of 60-year-old George Deramus pleaded guilty on Monday morning to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Tavowia Hinton, who was 49 at the time of the Dec. 2, 2018, incident, had been facing a charge of second-degree murder. She was given a six-year prison sentence, but it was suspended. Ms. Hinton was directed not to have any contact ... (click for more)

Florida Man Says Deal Should Go Through To Buy 6,161 Acres In Hamilton, Sequatchie Counties From Pattens

A Florida man has filed suit in Federal Court, saying he had a deal to buy 6,160 acres in Hamilton and Sequatchie counties from Bryan and Cartter Patten, but they are backing out of the deal. C. Lee Eggert, of Brandon, Fla., said the agreed purchase price was over $11.6 million. He acknowledged that he was being furnished the money by a logging company, Consolidated Timberlands. ... (click for more)

Opinion

Student Debt - And Response (3)

“And so we come to commencement, that glorious moment of achievement when a high school or college graduate will be awarded a hard-earned diploma and venture into a complex world full of promise and fright.” Uh-huh. Except for over 40 million young Americans who are saddled with a collective debt of well over $1.5 trillion, and who are being “blamed” by conservatives like Roy ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: "Miss Mary Frances"

I have written dozens of obituaries in my life and eulogized many people. I am not ashamed to admit I think I am good at it and I am flattered when a friend’s family approaches me to ask for my help. I have written a number of obituaries on those who are still alive who want to “proof-read” what will be turned into the funeral home and I have honored death-bed requests that this ... (click for more)