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HomeIssue 47A touch of light: the magic of feathers and pigments in the...

A touch of light: the magic of feathers and pigments in the sun


Photo© Mike Gillam

In the great cities of the world, sparrows (including different races, hybrids and species) and feral pigeons compete for crumbs beneath the café tables. Closer to home, native crested pigeons, magpie larks, miners, crows and even chip-loving galahs parade through the outdoor dining areas of Todd Mall.

Ring neck parrots, a clear favourite among camera wielding tourists, were quick to discover the unguarded sugar packs in the centre of café tables forcing management to take protective countermeasures. More popular with the café staff, crested pigeons confine themselves to cleaning up the fallen crumbs that are difficult for human cleaners to reach.

The upper wing coverts of certain species, including our native crested and spinifex pigeons, are highly reflective and in the right light, supremely colourful. Feather structure and pigments work their magic in sunlight, like a refracting prism, splitting the light if the angle is right into the primary colours of red, green and blue. As the angle changes, these primary colours merge and shimmer.

Courting males with their brighter upper wing coverts parade their iridescent feather panels in combination with enthusiastic tail fanning and cooing to attract a mate or not, as the case may be.


Recently in this series: 


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