Why Do Pigeons Have Colorful Necks?

Many people find pigeon necks attractive and fascinating because they appear in distinct colors and quickly change from purple to green on the movement of necks.

Why Do Pigeons Have Colorful Necks? Pigeons have colorful necks due to iridescent feathers that can reflect light and appear in green and purple shades. Moreover, the neck feathers have microscopic barbules that act like a prism and refract light to make them appear shiny.

It is interesting to know that pigeons have colorful necks due to the refraction of light, as it brings a visual effect to their feathers and improves their beauty.

The angle of looking at the bird matters as these shiny feathers are nothing but an optical illusion like a bubble of oil on the wet road.

What does a pigeon’s neck look like?

Different types of feathers on a pigeon’s body give a different texture and color to their body due to changes in the cellular structure.

Moreover, their tails and wings have quill feathers that are comparatively larger in size and help them take a higher flight.

The body is covered with contour feathers that give a shape to bodies, and filoplumes are also present that are merged with contouring feathers having soft barbs on the edges.

Furthermore, a pigeon’s neck looks beautiful because feathers have soft edges that merge and give a shiny appearance, like green or purple.

The contouring and flight feathers do not appear colorful, but the tiny or microscopic hair is known for producing an intense shiny shade.

What are the reasons for colorful necks in pigeons?

Feather structure plays a crucial role in determining the color of necks in pigeons and in producing pigments responsible for giving body pigment.

Optical illusion

A band of feathers appears colorful due to the refraction of light at specific angles. The sunlight directly falls on the feathers, captured by the microscopic structures acting like prisms.

The prisms refract the light rays and make them appear in the same shades they are refracted.

The light rays split into different shades, including the ultraviolet, which is invisible and gives a shiny appearance to the specific region.

The complexity of latticework in the feathers is usually less organized in the region below the head, which makes them appear different in color from the other areas of the body.

Iridescent feathers

Iridescence occurs naturally in many birds as their feather can reflect light.

In addition, this is common in the flower petals and sea shells that appear in different shades having varying pigments.

The iridescent feathers have the potential to change their colors of feathers when the angle of refraction changes.

Furthermore, the features appearing green can turn into a purple shade when they move the head in another direction.

Blending of feathers

You cannot see intense shiny bands on the necks when the light rays hit the troughs only because they cannot reach the microscopic structures or barbules.

However, green or purple colors appear when these feather peaks begin to merge. This way, these intense pigments become visible to human eyes.

So, it is essential for barbules or threads in feathers to merge together and reflect the light waves off their bodies.

Furthermore, they can only appear like this when these waves equally hit the troughs and peaks.

Better surveillance

Pigeons have a broad vision as they can see the light spectrum beyond human vision that is limited to purple, but they can also see the ultraviolet light that comes after purple on the spectrum.

Thus shiny bands can help these birds in better surveillance and help them identify their fellows because these colors appear lighter to humans but are bright and intense for them.

Moreover, their necks can appear dull due to the accumulation of bacteria and other germs in feathers.

You probably have seen birds preening their bodies using beaks as they remove the dirt and try to decrease the load of bacteria from their bodies.

The surveillance feature of these birds makes them good spies, and shiny necks are considered digital signatures to allow the drones to see the nearby objects more clearly.

Microscopic barbules

The microscopic or tiny structures are present in the iridescent feathers known as barbules that appear as branch-like filaments.

These barbules are crescent-shaped structures almost 30 to 40 µm wider, 340 to 350µm longer, and have 2 to 3 µm thickness.

Moreover, they interact with light and amplify the wavelengths when sunlight falls on them.

This amplification depends on the latticework’s viewing angle and complexity and determines the color’s intensity.

So, these crystal-like nanostructures manipulate the incoming light waves and control the structural coloration of the feathers.

How do pigeons get colorful bodies?

The bodies of birds get their colors due to the presence of pigments like melanin and carotenoids.

The melanin pigment gives a distinct body color to each pigeon species; some appear grey, black, or orange, and a few have brown bodies.

In addition, the carotenoids are not responsible for the coloration of the whole body as they add pigment to some specialized feathers having microscopic structures found in the region below the head.

Moreover, these carotenoids are responsible for forming brighter bands on their necks and making them appear shiny.

They have to consume food rich in carotenoids that can reach feather follicles after streaming through blood because they cannot produce such pigments on their own.

So, plumage coloration depends on two pigments, including melanins and carotenoids, and it occurs due to the reflection of light from the feather when sunlight falls on them directly.

What colors can be present in iridescent feathers?

The iridescent feathers appear in different colors when the angle of the neck changes, producing structural shades in the particular region.

Iridescence is caused by constructive interference phenomena in which the overlapping waves reinforce when they attain a single phase.

The reinforcements of waves produce different colors like purple, green, magenta, and even shiny gold. In addition, they can also appear in metallic copper and cyan shades after reinforcement.

Furthermore, these feathers can make pigeons appear shiny in the bright sunlight, but the non-iridescent feathers lacking particular pigments usually appear in blue, white, and green shades.

What type of pigeons have colorful necks?

Most commonly, you can see many pigeons with shiny necks in the surrounding because rock pigeons or feral ones have such distinguishing features.

Moreover, such distinct features in their bodies are more pronounced in males, which appear shinier than in females.

In addition to rock pigeons, the stock doves appear blue-grey, having iridescent feathers. These have a clear band of bottle-green shade on the backside of their necks.

Furthermore, many other birds have a colorful band of feathers due to a particular physical structure that changes feather appearance on a slight variation.

The domestic pigeons having greyish bodies have metallic-green bands below the head and change into purple when the angle of refraction increases.

In the same way, some of these birds look brown under different circumstances, and the phalarope has a red band with a greyish body due to changes in refraction angle.

So, all pigeons do not have shiny surfaces as it depends on melanin production, carotenoid consumption, and the angle of structural feathers.

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