Birds, creatures of the sky, fill the sky with wonderful vibrant colours. Ever wondered why birds are colourful? This story answers just that. The story is by Kamakshi Lakshmanan, a Nature Photography Educator.

Narrator: Kamakshi Lakshmanan


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to yet another edition of Hello Educator. Today’s episode is from Mango Science Radio and we have a new storyteller. Her name is Kamakshi Lakshmanan, she is a storyteller and she’s also a Nature Photography Educator. Today’s story is from her and it is titled ‘Why are birds so colourful?’ 


00:41  Hello everybody, this is Kamakshi Lakshmanan. I’m a Nature Photography Educator. Today we are going to learn why birds are so colourful. Pigments are coloured substances that are present in both plants and animals. There are three primary pigments in birds.

01:01  Carotenoids – Birds eat plants that have a chemical component called carotenoids. Some bright colours like green and yellow come from the food they eat. We can notice this in some of the finches and warblers.

01:19  Melanin – Melanin is a skin component and also a substance that is found in bird feathers. This substance provides something more than just colours. The flight feathers are prone to wear and tear. Most owls, eagles have this substance in excess because they need more strength. Even in some birds which are white in colour, if one observes, the flight feathers are dark brown-black in colour.

01:50  The third substance is called Porphyrins. Porphyrins are modified amino acids. These generally produce dark coloured feathers. Some of the dark bright pink, oranges and red comes from Porphyrins. Let’s now look at colours that are caused by the structure of feathers.

02:13  The throat feathers of a hummingbird, for example, is caused by the refraction of lights. The refraction works like a prism, splitting the light into different colours. Sometimes, these colours don’t have to be because of the structure. In case of the Blue Jay, the blue colour is caused by the scattering of light through air pockets in feathers.

02:41  Colour Abnormalities -We also come across some colour abnormalities in birds. In such cases, there is either too much or too less of a substance. This condition is called albino. One classic example is that of the Kingfisher which was white in colour, found or cited recently in Sunderbans.

03:07  So far we discussed facts. Let’s look at folklore for fun. Do we know the story of why the crow is black in colour? The crow was vibrant and colourful. One day the crow observed all birds around the crow were black. He danced and splashed these colours to all the other birds. Now the only colour left with him was black! How generous was the dear crow? I hope you enjoyed the talk. Stay home, stay safe. Observe birds from your balconies. Have a good day. 

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Music by Karthikeyan KC