What is the most colorful bird in the world? – Teach me about Science

Colored feathers of different birds. Credit: TheCornellLab

The diversity of colors in the plumage of birds is a very distinguished feature. The coloration fulfills different functions in the life of these animals, in sexual communication, for example, the showy feathers that the males of some species wear serve as a visual signal that is of great value during courtship for reproductive success.

Likewise, birds use the color of their plumage in social communication; thermoregulation; crypsis, which is a phenomenon by which an organism has characteristics that make it go unnoticed by other animals; aposematism, which consists of presenting striking features in order to ward off predators, among many other mechanisms that contribute to the survival of these animals.

In this way, the knowledge about the great role that the coloration of the plumage in birds plays in nature is extensive. In addition, a related feature that will impress you to know is that these animals have an extraordinary ability to discriminate colors, since they have four types of cones (specialized cells that detect color), unlike humans who only have three. .

This allows them to see ultraviolet/violet wavelengths, in addition to red, green, and blue wavelengths, which are perceptible to humans as well. In this way, due to the spectral range appreciable by birds, they see the world in a completely different way than we do.

In any case, the coloration of birds for humans will always be a characteristic that generates great admiration, since showy and colorful feathers are associated with beauty. In this sense, have you ever wondered which is the bird with the most colorful plumage?

Well, now science has an answer and everything seems to point to a small group of birds that are characterized by having a high flapping speed, feeding mainly on nectar, being excellent pollinators, and known for being the only bird that can fly backwards, That’s how it is! We are talking about hummingbirds.

Hummingbird plumage color diversity. Photographs of males of eight of the 114 hummingbirds tested, showing the incredible diversity of hummingbird plumage color, including saturated blues, greens, and purples. Credits: Communications Biology.

A group of scientists from Yale University showed that hummingbirds have such a diversity of color in their distinctive iridescent plumage that it exceeds the variety of plumage colors of all previously described bird species. Their report was recently published in the journal Communications Biology.

To reach this conclusion, they carried out an exhaustive study that consisted of estimating the range of hummingbird plumage colors, as well as their distribution, by collecting more than 1600 reflectance spectra from 114 different species of these birds and the help of computational models.

They compared this data with information that was already documented for a wide variety of colors in other birds, including quetzals, parrots, finches, among others. Thus, they determined that the range of hummingbird plumage colors equals or exceeds previous estimates for all other birds.

“We found that hummingbird plumage color gamut fills more than one-third of the bird color space and exceeds what was previously documented for all birds,” the study authors say.

So now you know, at least with the data currently collected by the study, the distinction of “most colorful bird in the world” goes to the extraordinary hummingbirds.

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