Purple is a rare and majestic color in nature, even more so in birds. Purple birds are not very common, but they are indeed stunning to look at. They have a variety of shapes, sizes, and behaviors, and they live in different habitats around the world. In this article, we will introduce you to some of the most beautiful purple birds you can find and tell you some interesting facts about them.
What Makes a Bird Purple?
Before we dive into the list of purple birds, let’s first understand what makes a bird purple. Purple is not a pigment that birds can produce by themselves. Instead, purple is an optical illusion created by the structure of the feathers. When light hits the feathers, some wavelengths are absorbed, and some are reflected. The reflected light is what we see as color. Depending on the angle and intensity of the light, the color can change from blue to purple or vice versa.
Some birds have iridescent feathers that can produce metallic or rainbow-like colors. These feathers have tiny air pockets or layers that act like prisms, splitting the light into different colors. The color we see depends on the angle of view and the angle of illumination. Iridescent feathers are often used for display or communication, such as attracting mates or signaling dominance.
Other birds have non-iridescent feathers that can produce solid or dull colors. These feathers have melanin, a pigment that can produce black, brown, gray, or reddish colors. Melanin can also interact with other pigments, such as carotenoids or porphyrins, to produce yellow, orange, red, green, or purple colors. Carotenoids are pigments that birds get from their diet, such as fruits or insects. Porphyrins are pigments that birds synthesize from their own body.
List of Purple Birds
Now that we know how purple birds get their color let’s look at some examples of purple birds from different families and regions.
The purple martin is the largest swallow in North America and belongs to the swallow family Hirundinidae. It has a glossy dark purple body with black wings and tail. The female is slightly duller than the male and has a gray chest and belly. The juvenile is mostly brown with some purple patches.
The purple martin is a migratory bird breeds in North America and winter in South America. It prefers open areas near water, such as lakes, rivers, marshes, or coasts. It feeds on flying insects, such as dragonflies, bees, wasps, or butterflies.
The purple martin is famous for its association with humans. It nests in artificial houses or gourds that people provide for them. It is also very social and forms large colonies with other purple martins. It communicates with various sounds, such as chirps, whistles, clicks, or gurgles.
The purple honeycreeper is a small songbird that belongs to the tanager family Thraupidae. It has a bright purple body with black wings and tail. It also has a long curved bill that is black in males and yellow in females. The female is duller than the male and has greenish upperparts and grayish underparts. The juvenile is similar to the female but has a shorter bill.
The purple honeycreeper is native to South America and parts of Central America. It inhabits forest canopies, edges, or plantations. It feeds mainly on nectar from flowers, using its specialized tongue to extract the sweet liquid. It also eats fruits, insects, and seeds.
The purple honeycreeper is a social bird that often joins mixed-species flocks with other honeycreepers or tanagers. It breeds in pairs or small groups, building a cup-shaped nest on a branch or vine. It lays two to three eggs that are white with brown spots.
The violet-backed starling is a medium-sized starling that belongs to the starling family Sturnidae. It has an iridescent violet back and white underparts. The male has a darker violet color than the female and a longer tail. The female has brown streaks on her back and chest. The juvenile is similar to the female but has more streaks.
The violet-backed starling is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. It lives in open woodlands, savannas, or clearings. It feeds on fruits, insects, worms, or small vertebrates.
The violet-backed starling is a nomadic bird that moves according to food availability. It forms large flocks that can number thousands, especially during the non-breeding season. It nests in tree cavities or old woodpecker holes. It lays three to five eggs that are pale blue with brown spots.