Photo: Is this bluebird really blue?

162 of 1010
162 of 1010

This bird isn't really blue, at least not in the way a cardinal is red or a flamingo is pink. Most birds attain their color through pigment in the things they eat, but blue pigments consumed by birds are destroyed during digestion, so what's the secret?

The blue of a bluebird delights us thanks to structural color – the color is generated by light interacting with a feather’s 3-D arrangement rather than by actual blue pigment. So although the feathers look blue, if we were to destroy the intricate structure, the blue would fly the coop, so to speak. And even though the bluebird's blue may not be true blue, it's all the more beautiful for the magic that makes it appear so.

Thanks to photographer Tony LePrieur for inspiring this random lesson!

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