To the human eye, color holds a certain enchantment, a visual pleasure that adds depth to our world. Birds, gifted with the ability to see an even wider range of colors, respond differently to various hues in their environment. While some colors lure them in, others might be overlooked.
But what shades really catch their eyes and why?
Understanding the colors that captivate birds can give us insights into their behavior, preferences, and even the evolution of their vision.
Birds and Their Color Preferences
When it comes to attracting birds, color is an important factor to consider. Different bird species have different color preferences (see how How Do Birds Get Their Colors), and understanding these preferences can help you create a bird-friendly environment in your backyard. Here are some of the most common color preferences among birds:
Red and Orange
Bright colors such as red and orange tend to attract birds the most and orange can be attractive to nocturnal birds. This is because these colors are commonly associated with food sources like fruits, flowers, and insects. For instance, hummingbirds are drawn to reds and oranges, while orioles prefer orange and yellow. If you want to attract these birds to your yard, consider planting flowers or hanging feeders with these colors. See our guide to types of red birds and types of orange birds.
Blue and Violet
Birds tend to prefer colors on the visible spectrum that have the most energy, such as violet, blue, and green. Birds attracted to blue and violet are birds with good color vision, such as blue jays and indigo buntings and other brightly colored birds. If you want to attract these birds, consider adding blue or violet birdhouses, feeders, or birdbaths to your yard. See types of blue birds.
Green and Brown
Natural camouflage colors such as green, brown, and gray are excellent choices to attract birds with more nervous temperaments, such as doves, quail, thrushes, and other ground feeders. These earth tone shades represent security and safety, which are attractive to more skittish bird species. If you want to attract these birds, consider planting shrubs or trees with green or brown foliage.
White and Gray
White and gray are not as attractive to birds as other colors, but they can still be effective in certain situations. These colors are often associated with open spaces and clear skies, which can be appealing to birds like gulls and terns. If you live near the coast, consider using white or gray birdhouses or feeders to attract these birds.
Black and Silver
Black and silver are not commonly used to attract birds, but they can still be effective in certain situations. These colors are often associated with darkness and mystery, which can be appealing to birds like crows and ravens. If you want to attract these birds, consider using black or silver birdhouses or feeders in areas with low light. See types of black birds.
Colors and Bird Species
Certain bird species are attracted to different colors. Knowing which colors attract which birds can help you create a bird-friendly environment in your yard. Here are some colors that attract various bird species:
Hummingbirds: Hummingbirds are attracted to bright and vibrant colors, especially red, orange, and pink. These colors resemble the nectar in flowers that hummingbirds feed on. Planting flowers like bee balm, cardinal flower, and salvia can attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Jays: Blue jays are attracted to blue, gray, and black colors. The blue jay’s feathers are blue, so it is naturally attracted to the same color. Blue jays also like gray and black colors, which can be found in their natural habitat.
Orioles: Baltimore orioles are attracted to bright and vibrant colors, especially orange. Planting orange flowers like trumpet vine, marigold, and zinnia can attract Baltimore orioles to your yard.
Goldfinches: American goldfinches are attracted to yellow colors. Planting flowers like black-eyed Susan, sunflower, and daisy can attract American goldfinches to your yard.
Bluebirds: Bluebirds are attracted to blue colors. Planting blue flowers like bluebells, bachelor’s button, and forget-me-nots can attract bluebirds to your yard.
Dark-eyed Junco: Dark-eyed juncos are attracted to earthy and natural colors like brown, gray, and green. Planting flowers like coneflower, coreopsis, and yarrow can attract dark-eyed juncos to your yard.
Northern Mockingbird: Northern mockingbirds are attracted to white and light colors. Planting flowers like white clover, daisy, and sweet alyssum can attract northern mockingbirds to your yard.
Colors in Bird Mating and Breeding
When it comes to bird mating and breeding, colors play a significant role in attracting a mate and establishing dominance. During the breeding season, male birds often display bright and bold colors to attract females. The brighter and more vibrant the colors, the more likely they are to catch the attention of a potential mate.
Birds use their plumage and markings to signal their fitness and health to potential mates. For example, male peafowls display their elaborate and colorful tails during mating season to attract females. The more vibrant and healthy the feathers, the more attractive the male is to females.
In some bird species, males use their bright colors to establish dominance over other males. For example, male hummingbirds use their iridescent plumage to intimidate and fend off other males during mating season.
Interestingly, some bird species can see a wider range of colors than humans. For example, many birds can see ultraviolet light, which allows them to detect subtle differences in color that are invisible to humans. This ability to see a wider range of colors may play a role in how birds select their mates.
Colors in Bird Behavior and Safety
Birds are attracted to certain colors for various reasons. Understanding the role of colors in bird behavior and safety can help you attract more birds to your yard or garden.
Aggression and Alarm
Bright, bold colors like red, orange, and yellow can trigger aggression and alarm in birds. These colors are often associated with danger or predators, so birds may become defensive or aggressive when they see them.
If you’re trying to attract birds to your yard, it’s best to avoid using bright, bold colors in your bird feeders or birdhouses. Instead, opt for more natural colors like green, brown, or gray.
Camouflage and Safety
Natural camouflage colors like green, brown, and gray are excellent choices to attract birds with more nervous temperaments. These earth tone shades represent security and safety, which are attractive to more skittish bird species.
If you want to create a bird-friendly environment, consider planting trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide birds with shelter and natural camouflage. Birds are more likely to visit your yard if they feel safe and secure.
Birds are also attracted to certain colors because they associate them with food. Bright colors like red, yellow, and orange are often found in fruits, berries, and insects that birds feed on. If you want to attract specific bird species like hummingbirds, consider planting flowers that are rich in nectar and have bright, bold colors.
Using Colors to Attract Birds to Your Yard
If you want to attract birds to your yard, using colors can be an effective way to do so. Birds are naturally attracted to vibrant colors, especially those that mimic the colors of their favorite foods. Here are some ways you can use colors to attract birds to your yard:
Plant and Flower Colors
One of the easiest ways to attract birds to your yard is by planting colored flowers. Brightly colored flowers such as red, orange, and yellow can attract a wide range of bird species, including hummingbirds, orioles, and finches. Trumpet vine is a popular choice for attracting hummingbirds, while sunflowers are a favorite of goldfinches.
Birdhouse and Bath Colors
Birdhouses and baths can also be painted in colors that attract birds. Brightly colored birdhouses can attract birds such as bluebirds and chickadees. Blue is a particularly effective color for birdhouses, as it mimics the blue sky and can make birds feel more at ease. When it comes to bird baths, a shallow dish in a light color can attract birds such as sparrows and finches.
Landscaping and Environment Colors
Landscaping and environment colors can also play a role in attracting birds to your yard. Natural camouflage colors such as gray, brown, and green are excellent choices to attract birds with more nervous temperaments, such as doves, quail, thrushes, and other ground feeders.
These earth tone shades represent security and safety, which are attractive to more skittish bird species. Incorporating blues for bluebirds and blue jays or earth tones such as gray, brown, and green can help attract more timid birds like doves and ground feeders.
Frequently Asked Questions
What colors are attractive to finches?
Finches are attracted to bright colors, especially yellow. They are also attracted to red and orange, but not as much as yellow. If you want to attract a healthy bird to your backyard, consider adding yellow flowers or a yellow bird feeder.
What color are birds least attracted to?
Most birds are less likely to be attracted to dark colors, such as black or dark brown. They are also less likely to be attracted to pastel colors, such as light pink or light blue. If you want to attract birds to your backyard, consider adding bright, bold colors, for example red attracts hummingbirds so consider red flowers and then other colours for different birds.
What colors are calming to birds?
The perception of color varies greatly among bird species, and what might be calming for one bird might not necessarily be calming for another. However, there are some general observations that can be made about colors and their effects on birds:
Natural Colors: Soft, muted shades similar to what birds might find in nature tend to be less startling or distressing to them. Earthy colors like greens, browns, and soft blues can be perceived as calming since they resemble the natural environment.
Pastel Shades: Soft pastel colors, like light blues, pinks, and yellows, are typically non-threatening and can be calming to birds.
Avoid Bright, Fluorescent Colors: Vibrant, bright, or fluorescent colors might be alarming or overstimulating to many birds. While some birds are attracted to bright colors (like many parrots), others might find them unsettling.
Individual Preferences: Just like humans, individual birds have their own preferences and personalities. Observing your bird’s behavior around different colors will give you a better idea of what they find soothing or distressing.
Species Specifics: Some species of birds might have evolved in environments with specific color palettes. For instance, a bird that has evolved in a desert environment might find shades of tan and brown calming, while a tropical bird might be more at ease with brighter, lush greens.
White: This is a neutral color and often doesn’t provoke strong reactions. However, if used excessively in a bird’s environment (like in a cage), it might seem stark and uninviting.