National Geographic Bird Coloration
Geoffrey E. Hill
Let’s face it, one of the reasons we go birding is sometimes just to enjoy the sheer beauty of their colors. Bird Coloration is a fascinating read for the birder who wants to understand a little more about the world birds see and why certain birds are colored the way they are. You don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy this book. Geoffrey Hill has made this topic accessible to all and the book is well illustrated with photos and vignettes throughout.
For the birder, understanding what causes birds to look the way they do is integral to a deeper appreciation of the birds we study and also a very useful aid in understanding bird identification. For instance, the red feathers of Turacos are actually red and can have the red leached out of the feathers whereas the blue feathers of a Blue-bellied Roller aren’t actually blue at all. To get the blue out of those feathers, you would literally need to smash it with a hammer in order to break up the microstructure of the feather. Some of the physics behind this may already be elementary to birders but Bird Coloration goes further than this to help reveal reasons behind geographical variations and what color means to different species when it comes to camouflage, display, migration and feeding.
For instance, female Pied and Collared Flycatchers aren’t good at recognizing males of the species. In the overlapping breeding ranges of both species, male Collareds have larger forehead patches and broader areas of white on their plumage and male Pieds are browner than normal. And, interestingly, male Collareds with larger white forehead patches have greater breeding success. Fascinating stuff. The list of fascinating examples cited in this book continue. The dark upper mandible of Willow Flycatchers helps to reduce sun glare when feeding for insects and there are studies to prove how scientists came to that conclusion. Or how the constant tail and wing flicking of Painted and American Redstarts helps to flush up insects. I could go on with more fascinating examples of how Egyptian Vultures get their yellow faces, why some male House Finches are yellow instead of red or why long-distance migrants have dark or black primaries but instead you’ll just have to read the book yourself. I haven’t even touched upon how birds see the world completely differently from humans and see colors in ultraviolet and so the breast of the Yellow-breasted Chat and the throat of a male Black-throated Blue Warbler to other birds are a color that we cannot comprehend. This book is thoroughly recommended for amateur birder and ornithologist alike.
Check the forum over the next few days for a chance to win a copy of this book and an interview with the author. We have some copies to give away to our North American readers.
Bird Coloration at National Geographic Store