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  • Writer's pictureJulien Biget

Birds and Colours

Updated: Jan 2

Ever asked yourself why many birds have bright colours and whether this makes them more of a target to predators?

A lot of the time in nature, animals are well camouflaged and not so brightly coloured, so they can blend into their environment and avoid predators, even if this camouflage doesn't really work with us and our colour vision. Most mammals very rarely have bright colours because bright colours stick out, even though lots of predators are rather colour-blind, the bright colours make individuals stand out from their environment. So how come so many birds have such bright colours? Wouldn't this make them a target in their environment?

We have to take a look into the evolutionary history of birds to figure this one out.

The ancestors of birds were dinosaurs, who evolved feathers and eventually evolved into birds. But why the bright colours? Firstly, birds can fly and so are less reliant on camouflage for defence purposes, they can fly away from danger, plus they have excellent vision and very quick reaction times. But more importantly, we must look at why feathers evolved in the first place. Surprisingly feathers did not evolve for the purpose of flight, this was a secondary advantage. The main reason the first dinosaurs evolved feathers was for another reason, sex. It's not like they did this on purpose, but through evolutionary design, feathers helped them have sex. The first dinosaurs with feathers had small insignificant ones on their heads, which the lady dinosaurs liked and so mated with them more than with the others. Gradually the males had more and more feathers on their heads, then on the tips of their arms/wings, and the ladies kept choosing the males with more feathers. These early dinosaurs then realised that they could use the feathers on their arms to gain traction and run faster and thus had a better chance of survival. This meant that the gene for feathers turned into an advantage for survival and this gene continued and birds slowly evolved. Thus, feathers evolved to be brightly coloured in a lot of birds because their primary purpose was to attract a mate, not for flight.



Julien T. Biget
Lerato Adventures – Julien T. Biget

Julien is French and Scottish, born in 1988 in Nairobi Kenya.

He's a professional Nature Guide and Trails Guide speaking both French and English. He has been lucky enough to have worked in some of the most amazing destinations Africa has to offer, from East Africa to Southern Africa, as well as some time in Central Africa.

From a very young age he knew he needed to work with animals, big or small, and somewhere in nature. He was always picking creatures up and trying to see the world from their perspective, trying to understand them as much as possible, mesmerised by their shapes and colours. He liked to share this passion with everyone around, always trying to get them involved in his discoveries. Nature is all around us, in Europe, Asia or Africa, all we have to do is realise it.

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