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Weekly Wisdom: Blue Jays aren't actually blue!
October 14, 2022 by High Park Nature Centre

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom! Stay tuned for some fun nature facts to amp up your nature knowledge!

The Blue Jay is both an iconinc bird in Canada and also the namesake for Toronto's iconic baseball team. While they are noted for their bright blue colour, there's something odd yet interesting about their colour. They aren't actually blue!

According to Nature Canada's website cccc According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website this is due to the melanin pigment in their feathers. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs. These barbs have tiny air pockets which scatter incoming light, much like how a prism scatters light.

In fact, most birds whose plummage have a blue appearance have this colouration produced in this manner, according to the Cornell Lab. Examples of some birds include Bluebirds, Indigo Buntings, Steller’s Jays and of course Blue Jays. You can observe this effect yourself if you ever find a fallen Blue Jay feather, try backlighting it and you'll notice that the feather is brown in colour as there's no light being reflected back from the feathers.

Read more:

Blue Jay, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
How Birds Make Colorful Feathers, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
All About Blue Jays: Are They Actually Blue?, Nature Canada

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