Field Frame Friday: Beauty in Decay

I found this violet bellied hummingbird (Juliamyia julie) in Panama shortly after it died. The iridescence in hummingbird feathers does not come from pigmentation; it is structural. Microscopic “bubbles” in hummingbird feathers refract light; the size and arrangement of the bubbles determines the colors that escape, creating brilliant patterns like the rainbow seen on this specimen.

[Photo and caption by Alexander Vining]

Osorio, D., & Ham, A. D. (2002). Spectral reflectance and directional properties of structural coloration in bird plumage. Journal of Experimental Biology205(14), 2017-2027.

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