How Bird Feathers Get Their Colors

The biology of feather color, from white, to subtle earth tones, to scintillating displays of wild iridescence.

July 21, 2022

Listen to the Episode

How Bird Feathers Get Their Colors


The diversity of color in bird plumages is one of the things we love most about these animals.

But bird plumages are impressive not only when they display vibrant colors plucked from the rainbow. Thousands of species aren’t what we’d call colorful, but they do have gorgeous, intricately patterned feathers in combinations of black, brown, and white.

Today, we’re looking at how feathers get their colors, from white to subtle earth tones to scintillating displays of wild iridescence.

~~ Leave me a review using Podchaser ~~

Links of Interest

  • Sponsor Link: Sign up through to make a difference in the climate crisis, and Wren will plant 10 extra trees in your name!

Research Citations


Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca). Photo by Prateik Kulkarni/Wikimedia.
Great Argus feathers (Argusianus argus). Photo by Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia.
Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythiax) showing green plumage with turacoverdin pigments. Photo by Arnold/Adobe.
Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus). The red color results from turacin pigments. Photo by Ana Tramont/Adobe.
Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). The yellow and red feathers are pigmented with psittacofulvins. Photo from Unsplash.
Indian Peafowl male (Pavo cristatus). Photo by Steve Harvey/Unsplash.
Great Sapphirewing hummingbird (Pterophanes cyanopterus). Photo from Adobe Stock.
Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). Photo from Unsplash.

This work by Ivan Phillipsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Get email updates about new podcast episodes, articles, and other bird-related goodies!