This magpie was my buddy at my BudBurst site on Apex trail in Jefferson County earlier
this week. It and two others have been calling back and forth to each other for a couple of weeks, but this time, one of the magpies stayed with me as I made my way up the trail and inspected the ponderosa pine that I’ve been monitoring.
Most of the time magpies are described as black and white, but as you see on this beautiful bird, they look blue in some light. This color change is not due to a pigment, but instead due to the way the feathers are built.
Many feathers are built to act like tiny prisms. Light come in one side of an organelle in a feather, and bounces off the back of it. As the angle of the light changes, so does the color of the feather. This is true of the feathers of peacocks, ducks, hummingbirds, some fish, butterflies, and other insects, and some minerals or oil slicks. Most interestingly, scientists have recently found that some dinosaurs also were black changing to iridescent blue – just like my friend the magpie.
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