Blue jays are known for their loud and obnoxious screams.
But if you take a close look at a blue jay’s tail feathers, you may grow to appreciate our noisy neighbor a bit more for its beauty.
While taking a walk down the Santa Fe Trail in East Dallas, I came across a blue jay perched on a tree branch with his handsome tail feathers on full display. These birds love a forested area.
Those distinctive tail feathers on a blue jay’s backside are the most eye-catching attribute of this common backyard bird.
The horizontal stripes on the tail feathers topped with white tips really make this songbird stand out.
However, those vibrant cobalt blue tail feathers are an optical illusion of sorts. Indeed, Smithsonian Magazine notes that yellow or red feathers come from pigment, but there are no blue feathers created by pigment.
Instead, Smithsonian says that blue feathers are a “structural color” rather than a “pigmented color.” Pigmented color comes from pigments in the foods birds eat. In contrast, structural color is created by “light interacting with a feather’s 3-D arrangement.”
No matter how the blue color is created, we certainly should appreciate the distinctive look of the blue jay — despite however much his noisy ways may annoy us at times!
- “Slings and Arrows: Why Birders Love to Hate Blue Jays,” Audubon Magazine
- “Blue Jay,” Audubon Guide to North American Birds
- “Why are Some Feathers Blue?” Smithsonian Magazine