Color in Birds

Effects of Natural Selection, Intelligence and Maturity

Colour in Birds and Chemical or Absorption Colors

Objective Structural Color in Birds

Subjective Structural, Prismatic or Metallic Colors

Effects of Natural Selection, Intelligence and Maturity on the Color of Birds

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Continued from Subjective Structural, Prismatic or Metallic Colors

The effects of natural selection and choice of breeding partners, whether combining or striving against each other, have worked marvels in plumage. Significant colours, as for instance total blackness or whiteness, could be developed only when higher intellectual qualities, bodily size and strength, or occasionally even special smallness, guaranteed the safety of the bird. The females and the young mostly retain a more sombre garb, and thus remain on a phylogenetically lower level. It takes the large Gulls several years to change from a mottled brownish and grey appearance into the beautifully dark and white colours. The same applies to the white shoulders of certain Eagles.  Many other instances show clearly how the changes of bygone ages of the ancestors are recapitulated in the yearly moult of the growing individual until with maturity its present stage of perfection is reached - but only its present stage, because its descendants in turn will be different, either still more beautiful or still better adapted to the ever-changing conditions of life.

This consideration implies that whole-coloured birds, like Swans and Ravens, have reached their limit so far as coloration is concerned, since both black and white are very conspicuous and are correlated with a considerable amount of intellectual development. The very early assumption of the black plumage by the nestlings of Ravens and Crows is a strong argument for their relatively highest position on the hypothetical avine tree.

Albinos are notoriously shy. The females of birds which breed in holes, as Rollers, Kingfishers, and Parrots, are frequently as beautifully coloured as the males, because they need no protection through colour while sitting on the nest. In the green Amazons beauty, intelligence, and safety by protection are combined.

The often surprising adaptation of the coloration of the plumage to the surroundings is well known. Frequently the conspicuoulsy coloured parts are hidden when the bird is at rest, and are only exposed or shown-occasionally as "danger signals" when the bird is on the wing.  It cannot be doubted that the sense of colour is highly developed in birds, perhaps most so in the female when choosing a mate.  The result of this mating selection being constantly regulated by natural selection is exhibited most by the male, but enjoyed by both sexes, and for the benefit of the whole race.

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