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Today’s subject is somewhat frustrating for me, because as you will see, this is partially about human limitations within an endlessly fascinating and beautiful world. But let not such petty concerns dampen our curiosity.


Birds be invisible, yo.

Image result for invisible birds

In 2007, a group of biologists studied 166 varieties of North American birds that were known for both sexes sporting rather drab plumage. To our eyes, these were rather boring birds to look at. How sad to be one of these unlucky things, cheated of florid feathering in such a vivid world. Poor, poor birdies.

Image result for boring birdsWhat a boring birdie! Boo! Boo! 

How wrong we were.

Turns out 92% of these drab, unpainted creatures were adorned in colors that exist only in the ultraviolet spectrum. They aren’t colorless after all…in fact, they’re downright psychedelic!

Image result for psychedelic birds
Image result for psychedelic birds

A lilac-breasted roller. It is beautiful, but not even close…

Since humans only have red, blue, and yellow color receptors, we cannot see ultraviolet light. Birds, however, have both colored retinal filters–which increases the colors they can see in the rainbow spectrum–and possess a fourth color receptor in their eyes.

color rangeAn important looking graph. 

A fourth color receptor is a big deal. If you don’t believe me, here’s a depressingly effective comparison for you.

Dogs have two color receptors: blue and yellow. Because they lack that one red receptor, they cannot see shades of red. Now, look around you…notice all the red things…all the reddish things…think of a sunset or sunrise…a rare steak…a rose. To a dog, the world human beings see is unthinkable.

Image result for what dogs see vs what humans see

                                                If he only knew, he’d be so much sadder.

The vastness of difference is unfair. 

But the last laugh is not ours.

For us, the world of birds might as well be an alternate reality, an alien planet, a beautiful dreamworld defying all explanation.

Image result for psychedelic landscapes

Groovey, man.

Image result for psychedelic landscapes

Faaaar ouuuut! 

Maybe it’s the raw jealousy talking, but I feel like another color spectrum might be precisely what humans need right now to snap us out of this collective funk we seem to mired in. A brighter world, literally. 

But I’m happy for the birds. I swear…

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

August 2019