What colors can Birds see? Birds Vision Explained 2023

Birds, also classified as Aves, are warm-blooded vertebrates with feathers. They are descendent of primitives Avialan, which was founded 160 million years ago.

Presently, we all witness different varieties of birds flying in our surroundings. But have you wondered how or what colors do birds see? Is it the same as us or different?

The answer to the question, “What colors can birds see,” is: Birds can see more color shades than humans. Birds are tetrachromatic and can see four colors: UV, blue, green, and red; in contrast, humans are trichromatic and can catch only three colors: blue, green and red.

That’s why birds can glimpse millions of color variations that even the human eye cannot distinguish.

In this way, you can wonder how more colorful birds witness the world. Later in this post, we have explained much in detail on this topic along with pictorial comparison. So, without any further ado, let’s begin.

What colors can Birds see?

Birds can see the electromagnetic spectrum from 300 nm to 700 nm wavelength, which is much wider than Human’s visible spectrum (380 nm to 750 nm).

They are tetrachromats, which means the cones and rods in their eyes react to four colors, UV, Blue, Green and Red.

Most birds have short, medium and long wavelength cones that help them to perceive the visible spectrum the same as humans, but their cones are also sensitive to the shorter wavelength of ultraviolet lights from (300-400 nm).

what colors do birds see
Birds see colors at different wavelengths

According to a new study analysis of 40 bird species, birds can locomote between shorter wavelengths to adjust the ultraviolet vision depending on environment and species.

Birds are able to distinguish millions of imaginary color shades with their tetrachromatic vision.

In terms of vision, they have superiority over humans. Not only in colors, but they also have wide visual (monocular birds) and can estimate the depth of field (binocular birds).

what colors can birds see
Birds can see colors more than us
Credits | Klaus Schmitt

In 2007, ornithologists experimented with the help of a spectrophotometer that birds have amazing ability to differentiate their genders with vision.

For example, humans cannot distinguish male and female birds because our eyes cannot perceive UV lights.

However, birds have the ability to identify gender by detecting the ultraviolet lights around their chest and feathers.

In a nutshell, birds can see more color than humans and can glimpse the world, as illustrated in the picture. Therefore, in terms of vision, birds are more advance than us.

Can Birds see in the Dark?

Yes, birds can see in the dark to some extent. However, it depends on their species.

Nocturnal birds like owls and nighthawks have a large ratio of rods and cones that sense the slightest of light and support them to hunt at night.

They have excellent low-light vision. Whereas diurnal birds, like parrots, pigeons, have a better proficiency in differentiating colors rather than focusing on perceiving low light.

However, some day-birds like Geese can see twelve times better than humans. It exhibits even diurnal birds can also see a little bit at night but not great as nocturnal birds.

Note- Even the nocturnal birds cannot see in the complete darkness. Mostly they hunt by sound, not sight.

Rods in the eyes play an important role in dim lights, and cones function best in bright light. Owls have big eyes where rods outnumbered cones in 30 to 1.

Also, according to the National Geographic blog on birds’ view, owls also have tapetum lucidum, which helps them to catch well in the dark.

Also, during the time of dawn and dusk, birds witness the world totally different than humans because, at that time, violet-blue rays of the sun majorly comprise the environment.

How do Birds see the world?

Birds can see the more colorful world than humans. They can witness the world with the wider electromagnetic spectrum comprising UV light, blue, green and red colors. Also, they have more clear vision than us.

As mentioned, birds are tetrachromatic, which means their rods and cones are sensitive to four colors, UV, blue, green and red. It signifies that they can perceive the color shades that are invisible to us.

Below, we have inserted an image of how birds see the world as compared to the human being.

Human vision vs Bird Vision
Human vision vs Bird Vision
Credits | Bird Tricks

Birds have the ability to selectively filter out certain colors to attain greater sensitivity to different color variations. It helps them to focus on the insects in the grass, fishes in the water or other suitable food items.  

Birds’ eyes are the primary source of their living. The capability to discern the UV lights helps them to survive in dissimilar circumstances. For examples:

  • Birds utilize UV lights to categorize various foods. Fruits, berries, flowers and insects reflect UV rays that assist birds in identifying the food more clearly than humans. In this way, they can efficiently locate the food from far away.
  • Predator birds like Raptors take advantage of the urine splashes done by rodents to mark their territory. These splashes are easily visible by raptors and assist them to track their prey.
  • Birds can categorize gender based on UV light reflection through chest and feathers, which helps them to select mates.
  • Birds can also perceive the UV lights from their eggs which enables them to categorize and reject the foreign eggs.

In these different ways, birds’ vision plays an important role in day-to-day tasks. In a nutshell, birds have acute vision and have a keen sense of color that helps them to see the world better, find mates, identify foods, etc.

How do Birds see Humans?

Birds can see humans in more color shades. They can perceive UV lights along with rainbow colors which help to glimpse humans more in violet/blue colors along with original shades. Below we have attached an image that demonstrates birds’ vision as compared to humans.

how birds see humans
Birds can see humans
Credits | Bird Academy

Birds’ vision is also more titled to the blue-violet colors, whereas human vision is more focused on red-orange colors.

Birds’ vision is categorized into two parts monocular and binocular.

The basic difference is: Monocular birds like pigeons parrots have a wide range of vision that allows them to notice a vast area at one time.

On the other hand, Binocular birds, owls, bald eagles have straight eyes, which helps them to determine the depth and focus on a particular object at the same time.

Bird vision vs Human vision

Bird Vision Human Vision
Have tetrachromatic vision Have trichromatic vision
Can perceive 4 colors (UV, blue, green, red) Can perceive 3 colors (blue, green, red)
See better in low light Cannot see much better in low light

Here, we have concluded our article on “What colors can birds see,” along with other queries. Now, you have understood how birds see the world as compared to us. So, we will be back with the next article. Till then, stay tuned with us.

Frequently Asked Questions-

Q1. What colors do hummingbirds not like?

Ans. Hummingbirds do not hate any color. On the contrary, they are attracted to many more color shades that are invisible to humans.

Q2. How far can a bird see?

Ans. Birds can see and focus about eight times as far as humans can.

Q3. Can bird see glass?

Ans. No, birds can not see glass. That’s why it is important to apply UV coating on windows to avoid birds’ hits.

Q4. What bird has the best eyesight?

Ans. Eagles have the best eyesight in the daytime, however at night, owls have better vision.


Bored Panda

DNA analysis of 40 bird species, reported Feb. 11 in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology

National Geographic


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