Some of the most beautiful colors you will see are found in birds and butterflies. We usually think of color as coming from pigments or dyes which reflect specific colors of light. However, the most intense and beautiful colors in the feathers of birds and the wings of butterflies don’t come from pigments. These animals display beauty in structural color.
Microscopic structures create structural color within the bird’s feathers or the butterfly’s wings which interfere with the frequencies of visible light. For example, the pigment in a peacock’s feathers is brown, but when you look at a peacock, you see blue, green, and turquoise in unusual patterns. Structural color can create color effects more intense than pigments, and structural color doesn’t fade like pigments. Structural color can even create an effect called iridescence in which colors change depending on the viewing angle. You can see this effect when you look at a CD or DVD.
What is the purpose of the colors in birds? The purpose may be for camouflage, to attract mates, or to indicate dominance. But in many cases, the colors seem to give no advantage. The beautiful colors merely exist for the beauty. When there is no evolutionary advantage for the colors, how did they get there? We humans appreciate beauty and enjoy looking at the beautiful colors. Could it be that colorful birds and butterflies were created by a Designer who is an artist who loves beauty, and who created us in His image. Could it be possible that God created the beauty in structural color for us to enjoy?
–Roland Earnst © 2018