How Birds See Color
Flowers add beauty to your garden and landscape with their gorgeous rainbow of colors, but they can do much more than just make a pretty palette to look at. Colorful flowers can help attract the widest variety of birds to the bird feeders in your yard – if you choose the right colors.
See Also: How to Grow a Bird Friendly Garden
Birds have much better color vision than humans. Not only can they see all the visible color shades we’re familiar with, but their visual spectrum also extends into the ultraviolet range. Furthermore, because birds have four types of cone cells in their eyes (humans only have three), they have far better visual acuity and can distinguish more hues, tones, and shades of colors than we can see. Birds also have a greater number of cones and rods in their eyes than humans, further enhancing their color vision.
Why Color Matters to Birds
Birds need to see color for survival. How they see colors can give them many clues about mates, food, health, and more.
- Bright plumage on other birds indicates health and strength. This is perfect for helping choose the best mate for healthy offspring.
- Bright colors on fruit and berries indicate peak ripeness, which is when foods are most nutritious for hungry birds.
- Brightly colored flowers are rich with nectar. These will more easily attract insects, both critical food supplies for many birds.
With colors being such great indicators to birds, it is no surprise that birds have highly developed color-discerning vision. Backyard birders can take advantage of that vision and use colors to attract more types of birds to their yards.
Which Colors Attract Which Birds
Different bird species are attracted to different colors in different ways. Some birds rely on color clues about foods, while others may be most attracted to the colors of their own plumage in order to join a flock or find a suitable mate. The best colors for attracting certain birds include…
- Red and pink flower attract hummingbirds.
- Orange flowers attract orioles and warblers.
- Yellow flowers attract goldfinches, warblers, and hummingbirds.
- Blue flowers attract bluebirds and jays.
All bright colors will be successful at attracting a greater variety of birds, no matter what the shades. Some duller, more camouflaged shades such as greens, tans, and browns will also attract skittish bird species such as quail, doves, and sparrows as well. Earth toned foliage indicates shelter and safety to these species.
Flower Colors You Should Avoid
There are several flower colors that should be minimized in a bird-friendly yard because they indicate trouble to birds. You’ll want to use colors that symbolize health and desirable resources instead. Bright white flowers, in particular, are likely to warn birds away.
Flashes of white are often seen as alerts and warnings of danger, such as the flash of white in a mockingbird’s wings, the white edges on a junco’s tail, or the white eyes of jackdaws.
While some white flowers can add beautiful accents to the yard, extensive white plantings should be avoided if you want to attract more birds.
Likewise, very dark shades such as black-like deep purples, maroons, and navy blues should also be avoided. While these darker colors won’t warn birds away, they are signs of rot and decay that offer no sustenance to birds. If a yard is filled with only these trendy dark colors, birds won’t recognize any available resources and will have no reason to visit.
Even using all the perfect color choices to create beautiful, blooming flowerbeds isn’t enough to attract birds. While the right colors will catch their notice, if the yard doesn’t meet their needs for food, water, shelter, and nesting sites, birds won’t visit for long. It’s easy, however, to make colorful flowers do double duty for birds. Simply choose bright blooms that are nectar-rich, or else will turn to bountiful seed crops, or will yield plentiful berries, and the flowers become a food source.
Add one more layer of usefulness by planting in layers. Those colorful flowers that are also food sources will also be ideal thicket-like shelter to protect birds and protect their nests. Opt for native flower varieties that birds will be more familiar with. Minimize insecticides and other chemicals. Add a clean bird bath for a water source.
By utilizing these tips, you’ll soon have more birds than you ever imagined while adding even more splashes of color to your yard.