Hummingbird Eyes See Colors We Can’t Imagine

by Ken Ham on June 25, 2020
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

Our head of horticulture at the Ark Encounter told my wife, Mally, and me that the large firecracker plant (Vermillionaire Cuphea) was the best plant to attract hummingbirds, so my wife put one on our deck. It didn’t take long. While I was sitting on the deck, a beautiful female ruby-throated hummingbird—the only breeding hummingbird species in eastern North America—came up to the plant and I was able to snap a couple of photos with my smartphone.

  • Firecracker plant
  • Hummingbird
  • Hummingbird

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

(By the way, don’t you like how knowledgeable I am about hummingbirds? Well, actually I sent the photo to Peter Schriemer. He is hosting our fantastic creationist nature program called Hike & Seek. It can be watched on our streaming platform Peter makes me look good!)

Hummingbird Eyes & God’s Creativity

Hummingbirds are beautiful examples of God’s incredible creativity. Creationists, and others, have long highlighted their remarkable design, such as their ability to hover and fly backwards. (For example, see “Hummingbirds—Avian Acrobats of the Americas” from our Answers magazine.) But there’s more to hummingbirds than just their lovely colors and eye-catching flight abilities. According to a new study, hummingbird eyes can see colors that we can only imagine—so much so that one researcher said humans are “colorblind” in comparison.

A popular science article summarized the new study this way:

While humans have three color cones in the retina sensitive to red, green, and blue light, birds have a fourth color cone that can detect ultraviolet light. A research team trained wild hummingbirds to perform a series of experiments that revealed that the tiny birds also see combination colors like ultraviolet+green and ultraviolet+red.

This means hummingbirds can see “nonspectral” colors (the researchers believe other creatures such as other birds, fish, reptiles, and maybe even dinosaurs could also see this way, but the study was done with broad-tailed hummingbirds). Purple is an example of a nonspectral color that we can see. But hummingbirds can potentially see five: “purple, ultraviolet+red, ultraviolet+green, ultraviolet+yellow and ultraviolet+purple.” What might these colors look like? One researcher shared, "It is impossible to really know how the birds perceive these colors. Is ultraviolet+red a mix of those colors, or an entirely new color? We can only speculate.”

This means hummingbirds can see “nonspectral” colors (the researchers believe other creatures such as other birds, fish, reptiles, and maybe even dinosaurs could also see this way, but the study was done with broad-tailed hummingbirds).

Another researcher said, “The colors that we see in the fields of wildflowers at our study site, the wildflower capital of Colorado, are stunning to us, but just imagine what those flowers look like to birds with that extra sensory dimension.”

Of course, the authors must tie evolution in, ending by stating that this ability evolved early in vertebrates. But this complex ability didn’t evolve by chance random processes. Just because various vertebrates share a similar trait (four color cone types) doesn’t mean they share a common ancestor. Rather, it points to a common Designer whose fingerprints are all over his creation—including in the eyes of hummingbirds.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed yesterday on Answers News with cohosts Avery Foley, Dr. Jennifer Rivera, and Tim Chaffey. Answers News is our weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum and broadcast on my Facebook page and the Answers in Genesis Facebook page. We also covered the following topics:

  • Ancient DNA impacts modern-day populations?
  • Why do blue jays look blue?
  • Did a lab simulate life?

Watch the entire episode of Answers News for June 24, 2020.

Be sure to join us each Monday and Wednesday at 2 p.m. (ET) on my Facebook page or the Answers in Genesis Facebook page for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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