How to Make a Black Feather Really, Really Black

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Birds of paradise, gorgeous birds found in Indonesia and my home country of Australia, apparently have feathers that are unique among birds. Many male birds of paradise have very black feathers. They are so black that one researcher says if you focus on the bird you “almost feel a little woozy” trying to look at them. Why do they have such black feathers?

According to recent research, their feathers are so black because they are fundamentally different in shape from other black feathers. On a microscopic level, the feather doesn’t lie like other feathers, which overlap and lay flat. Instead, these blackest-of-black feathers “have a complex branching structure. . . . They stick up into little forests of branches.” This allows the feather to trap light,

bouncing it around in the tiny voids between branches. The more the light scatters in this way, the more of it inevitably hits the surface of the feather again. And the more times the light hits the feather’s surface, the more opportunities there are for it to be absorbed rather than reflected to the viewers eye.

This means the feathers only reflect about .05–.31% of the light that hits them, as opposed to typical black feathers that reflect about 3.2–4.7% of light. The super-black feathers make the male bird’s bright, colorful patches stand out brilliantly, perfect for showing off during mating displays.

The variety, creativity, and uniqueness of God’s creation is endless, as we would expect from the infinite, all-powerful Creator God. No matter where we look, we find examples of diversity and complexity. This should move us to worship the one who made all of this for his glory and praise.

You can learn more about some of the incredible creatures God made in the upcoming documentary The Riot and the Dance, coming to theaters March 19, 2018. Unlike many secular documentaries, this spectacular film, hosted by biologist Dr. Gordon Wilson, gives the glory and praise to our Creator, rather than so-called “Mother Nature” or evolution. I encourage you to see this powerful documentary in theaters—you will leave marveling at what God has made.

Learn more and find a theater near you at RiotandtheDance.com.

And check out the brand-new article Dr. Wilson wrote for our website on the wonder of frogs, “Wonder Jumpstart.”

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

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

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