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Bird Attraction to the Color Red

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

The color red is a dominant color and there are several birds that are highly attracted to the color red, such as hummingbirds. That would explain why researchers attest to findings more bird droppings on red cars than any others. Recent research findings have suggests that birds are able to see more colors than humans.


Here is a brief discussion on the anatomy of the human eye and visualization of colors (the anatomy of the bird's eye is very similar to that of humans). Lights that are seen by the human eyes have different wavelengths, ranging from about 400 nano-meters (purple-blue) to about 740 nano-meters (reds). These wavelengths (light) are absorbed and also are reflected by different products, depending on the electron properties of the product. Light wavelengths that are reflected (bounced off) are absorbed into the eyes, this range starts at about 390 nm up to 700 nm in the human eyes. For example, banana absorb light wavelengths, but light with wave length at about 570 nm are reflected, these wavelength are absorbed in the human eyes and are interpreted as the color yellow.

Light hits the back of the eyes in an area called the retina. The retina contains cones (photo receptors) that become activated when wavelengths are received, sending the message to the brain that interprets into specific colors. It is thought that more than 60% of cones respond strongest to longer wavelengths which are the reds. Humans posses 3 types of cones, whereas birds possess at least 4 cones. It is thought that these additional cones can detect lower light wavelengths (300-400), and these are the ultraviolet wavelengths not seen by the human eyes.


Red is the dominant or longest visible light wavelength, and with more than 60% of cones able to filter higher wavelength, it is no wonder why the color red has such a rich history, relates a powerful and commanding statement. Given the additional cones present in birds, it is also no wonder why birds are attracted to the color red.


This ability to differentiate colors has several advantages for birds. Vision is the most important sense for birds. It allows birds to locate flowers, bright follow usually indicate abundance with nectar for nutritional purposes. It plays an important role in sex determination for mating purposes, birds with bright feathers indicate maturity, strength and prime for mating. Ability to see red provides an advantage for predatory birds, as this color can be seen to track preys. Gardens can be strategically prepared for optimal advantages of bird watchers and bird houses placement. Red feathered birds are quite fascinating to me.

If you are ever in a garden or a park and have a couple of hours, can I suggest bird watching and see if you can observe their interactions with the color red in your surrounding. Here the picture of a crimson finch, mostly found in Northern Australia and New Guinea. Common in subtropical/tropical region. This bird is considered to be aggressive to other similar and small birds and thought to be pricey, however, this is quite an elegant appearance.

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