Date: 7/6/18 9:17 am From: Devorah the Ornithologist <birdologist...> Subject: [Tweeters] Parrots Use Chemistry And Physics To Create Brilliantly Colorful Plumage
as birders, many of us are aware that birds have two ways that they colour their plumage: they either make use of structural colours (violet, blue, white, and super-black) or they colour their feathers using pigments. Brilliant pigments, such as red and yellow, are obtained from a bird's diet and packed into its growing feathers during moult. For this reason, colour is often used by females to assess the health of potential mates.
But parrots are different. You may know that parrots are the only group of birds that create their own brilliant colours, the psittacofulvins. But a recent study found that when psittacofulvins are extracted from either red or yellow feathers, they are orange in solution. This raises the question: WHUT??
This piece tells a little about newly-published research into how parrot feathers that are magenta, red, orange or yellow all use the same chromophores to create perfectly distinct colours.
of course, I am still waiting to learn the answer to the fundamental question: why did parrots evolve their own system for creating the so-called "warm colours" when their ancestors got their plumage pigment molecules from their diets? is it the diet aspect of the equation the thing that made it adaptive for parrots to create their plumage colours?