Birds of the Rainbow

There are many scientific discussions about the brightly colored birds on our planet. But instead of getting bogged down with melanin, refraction, and mating theories, let’s just look and admire today.

This is a day to relax into the rainbow.

We will start with the first color of the rainbow: red. The summer tanager and vermillion flycatcher, both found in North America and elsewhere, begin the rainbow with a hot start.

Shades of red vary in the avian world, these two birds are red-orange.

Pink birds, a variation of red, are not seen as commonly.

Next on the spectrum, orange in birds is often paired with brown. But this azure kingfisher sports a very bright orange breast and legs (and dazzling azure head and back).

This orange and black grosbeak breeds in our backyard every summer. The male’s colors flash conspicuously as he flies.

Since many forests have green leaves that turn to yellow, yellow birds can be found in many places.

Green is a color often seen in parrot species.

This violet-green swallow, a bird who nests in our nest boxes, swoops through the air showing off his elegant emerald finery.

Blue and indigo are both colors of the rainbow, and in birds there are numerous shades of blue.

This so-called green honeycreeper appears more turquoise.

While this turquois jay is adorned with several shades of blue.

The greater blue-eared glossy starling provides a blue spectacle all its own.

The aptly-named resplendent quetzal gets my vote for the most beautiful bird on the planet. The blue-green shades shimmer in the light, and the long streamer tail floating behind the bird stops you in your tracks.

We traveled to a very remote village in a Central American cloud forest to see this bird. We met our guide at 5 a.m. and he took us to the wild avocado trees where the quetzals eat. At one point there was actually a traffic jam in the forest because truck drivers, potato farmers and anyone passing by abandoned their vehicles to join our admiration club.

The peacock, a native of India with a long swag of green and blue, is incredibly eye-catching with a tail full of eyes.

Violet birds. The Costa’s hummingbird looks black in some light. But its throat and head vibrantly come alive with iridescent purple in the right light.

And this purple honeycreeper is so garishly purple it is difficult to look anywhere else.

Although the lilac-breasted roller has a lilac-colored breast, the bird showcases a rainbow kaleidoscope, especially when the bird spins through the air.

This leads us to a few sensational birds who grace the world with all the colors of the rainbow.

The rainbow bee-eater, a marvel to behold.

The painted bunting effortlessly showcases all the colors on the artist’s palette.

And lastly, the remarkable rainbow lorikeet, boasting the colors of the rainbow like no other bird on this planet.

Birders and photographers know well the game of light when it comes to the outdoors. If a brightly colored subject isn’t in good light, the color doesn’t stand out.

But there are those marvelous days when the light is just right: a day to celebrate the colors of the rainbow and all the glory on this planet.

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.

99 thoughts on “Birds of the Rainbow

    • It was great fun to share all the colors of the rainbow in these bird photos. Thanks very much, Timothy, for your visit. It’s always a joy to “see” you.

  1. This delightful post presenting us with such a beautiful assortment of brilliantly
    colored birds spots us in our tracks to pause and admire the great potential
    nature has produced. Fabulous photos Athena! Great post Jet! love you both, Eddie

    • Dear Eddie, your words and enthusiasm here were a delight. And I’m really glad it stopped you in your tracks to pause, though I think you do that often even without prompting, such a thoughtful and aware person you are. My warmest thanks, cheers, and love.

    • When I sat down at the keyboard, Craig, something we both do often, I thought I could include a few facts about the various color that birds display. But it just got so complicated that I ditched the facts, and just cruised forward with the colors. Always a joy and honor to have you stop by, Craig…thanks.

  2. Dear Jet,
    a great idea introducing us to these birds follwing the spectral colours from the longest to the shortest wave length. Of course, one asks why do they show these colours. Mating? Anyway, quite impressive.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This is a beautiful collection of colourful birds, Jet. It is a reminder that birds are the living things with the most variety in colour – more than any other animal group. What a quilt they would make if they were all together.

  4. Another splendid post! What a treat for the eyes – and the heart – reading and seeing the rainbow colours on display here! Jaw dropping colour, and each bird was a beauty. Some of the purples and turquoise shades were almost unbelievable – thanks, Jet!

    • Some of those purples and turquoise shades really are almost unbelievable, as you say, pc. And I could stare at a peacock all day and still wonder how any creature could be so exquisite. Great fun to share these beauties, and I’m smiling as I type, happy that you enjoyed today’s post. Thank you, pc, and my best to you both for a happy weekend ahead.

  5. Oh, how lovely they ALL are. A true joy to behold and appreciate the vast diversity. And I enjoyed focusing on the beauty for beauty’s sake. Thank you.

    • It was so much fun to put this post together, Nan. I am happy I could share them with you and that you found the same joy in beholding them, as I did presenting them. My warm love to you, and of course, great thanks.

  6. Love, love, love these avian colors, Jet (and Athena.) I’ve seen a few of them but of course most of them I haven’t. I did laugh about the people abandoning their trucks to join you. Reminds me of being in Yellowstone where, if you see people stopped, there’s either construction or an animal sighting. If the latter, everyone’s out of their cars quite quickly. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh I am so delighted that you enjoyed the birds of the rainbow today, Janet. The attraction that those quetzals had on all of us was mesmerizing. It’s no wonder that many of the countries that have the quetzal have the bird for their state bird. My warmest thanks.

  7. As if the biological wonders of the avian world were not enough to capture our attention, we have the beautiful rainbow colorations to inspire us at well. Thanks for capturing some of that & displaying it so well.

    • After last week’s post with the burned forest, I decided this week I wanted to splash around in bright, vibrant colors. So I just went through the rainbow. Your comment was a colorful and vibrant spark to my day, Walt. Thank you so much.

    • I am thrilled that you enjoyed the birds of the rainbow today, Terry. And I’m glad I could bring some cheer to your day. Thank you so very much for stopping by and commenting.

  8. I always call birds “flowers that fly”. It works the same way for both of them. We see flowers or birds and we usually admire their brilliant colors that stimulate our minds through via the eyes!
    You have quite a selection of birds with extraordinary bright plumages. Excellent photos and great post my friend, as always. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You and I have our love of birds in common, HJ, and you’re right, it is great to have the bright birds and flowers to stimulate our minds and raise our spirits. I enjoyed your comment on the “flowers that fly,” and thank you for your lovely visit today.

  9. Don’t know why but I feel I should pick favorites so I’ll pick the Green and Purple Honeycreeper and the summer Tanager

    • Your favorites were great fun to hear about, Bill. And all three of the birds you mention, the green and purple honeycreepers and the summer tanager, are truly stunning to behold. The tropics are great for those colorful and exotic birds. Thank you for choosing your favorites, I enjoyed it.

    • There is never too much beauty to take in, right Eliza? I’m glad I could share the beauty, the rainbow birds, and Athena’s hard work at the camera. Thanks so very much for your visit, Eliza, much enjoyed.

    • I was hoping you’d stop by for the Birds of the Rainbow, Frank. I know what a fan you are of Athena’s photography, and this post is packed with her indefatigable camera work. I enjoyed your comment, am still smiling.

    • It was a pleasure sharing these beautiful, colorful birds, Andrea, and I am delighted to hear you basked in their beauty. Many thanks for your visit and words today, Andrea.

  10. Oh, Jet, every one is spectacular! Such fun to look at each bird and appreciate its unique qualities. I wish I would spot the Violet Green Swallow here someday… and the Quetzal wins the prize. What a thrill that must have been! I happily saw Rainbow Lorikeets in Australia– amazing to see. Nature is truly awesome. Great photos, Athena…bird photography is a challenge. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Wonderful to receive your glowing words, Jane, and much appreciated. Finding the quetzals that day was indeed a thrill…so much so that it is years later and I still remember the exact date. I’m happy you have had the pleasure and honor of seeing rainbow lorikeets. And I do hope you see a violet-green swallow some day. They are often near water, but tricky to spot and especially tricky to photograph, as you can no doubt imagine. Thanks so much, Jane, always a pleasure.

  11. Gorgeous birds in the colours of the rainbow. Beautifully captured. I’ve never seen these birds before. The colours are stunning.

  12. Wonderful rainbow theme, Jet. I enjoyed Athenaโ€™s photos of birds around the world Iโ€™ll likely never see in person. One I have seen is the Quetzal. They really are incredible!

  13. That Southern Carmine bee-eater is a show-stopper. I’m not sure what it is that appeals so strongly, but it’s a gem. Your way of arranging the birds by color’s creative as can be, and of course you have the archives to pull it off with a great deal of verve!

    • I am happy you enjoyed the bird rainbow, Linda, it was really fun to compose. I’m glad you noticed that very special Southern Carmine bee-eater. “Show-stopper” is a good word for them, whether they’re perched like this one, or weaving through the air chasing a bee. Thanks very much for your visits today, appreciated and enjoyed.

    • I am pleased you enjoyed the birds of the rainbow, Belinda, and really glad I could introduce you to some new birds. The bird world is a fun one to share. Thanks very much for your visit.

  14. Dear Jet… leave it to you to present us with a rainbow of birds.
    I was lucky enough to catch sight and photos of a vermillion flycatcher during a visit to the Bosque del Apache. What an amazing thrill that was! And we have the Grosbeak here in our yard… oftentimes hoarding the perches so the chickadees can’t get any seeds. What a great shot of the Violet-green swallow (Thanks, Athena). We have a pair of them being extremely busy feeding their chicks. Wish I could see inside the nest box!!!
    So much to love about this post! I loved reading about your traffic jam caused by viewers of the quetzal! What a splendidly gorgeous bird! The peacock looks utterly gaudy next to the that onel.

    And OMG!!! That Lilac-breasted Roller is amazing. Hard to pick a favorite here because one bird appears lovelier than the next. I think I’ll just quit while I’m ahead! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Hope you’re well and content! and safe and healthy. Both of you.


    • Such a delight to receive your message, Gunta. I am happy you’ve had the thrill of seeing a vermillion flycatcher. Their red is like a beacon in the woods. I also enjoyed hearing about the bird activity in your yard. And I’m glad you enjoyed the traffic jam scene. It was like something in an independent movie, quiet but spirited and so poignant. Really fun to share the birds of the rainbow with you. Sending my thanks and warm wishes your way.

    • So great to have you stop by, Wayne, thank you. And that shade of the purple on the honeycreeper is quite a celebration of color, I’m glad I could share it with you. Cheers to you.

  15. Oh, Wow, Jet!! Every picture I was saying wow out loud. Oh my goodness to have been able to travel the world to capture these exceptional birds. One more beautiful than the other. Soon the world will be changed and you will once again be able to travel. I love photographing birds and that is one thing I have dearly missed as I pour my heart and soul into my gardens this year. Gorgeous post and I thank you so much for sharing it!! xo

    • How wonderful that I could share the birds of the rainbow with you, Amy, especially during this time when you’re focused more in your garden. Summer is so abundant with exquisite sights, it is difficult to see it all. Thanks so much for your delightful comment and visit, much enjoyed.

  16. I really enjoyed this cheering post and the stunning photos of breathtaking birds. It is impossible to pick a favourite but that colourful violet-green swallow really surprised me!

    • Oh so wonderful to have you stop by, Carol, and I’m happy you enjoyed the birds of the rainbow. That violet-green swallow is a surprise, as you say, with so much brilliant color. They move so swiftly and rarely stop moving, so they’re difficult to see as clearly as this photo was. But we have nesting boxes that host a family or two of this swallow species, so sometimes they do perch, and Athena gets lucky. Thanks so much for your visit and words, much enjoyed.

      • I enjoyed all the birds and photos, but I don’t associate such colours with a swallow. How great that you have some pairs using your nesting boxes. I imagine that Athena needs a great deal of patience as well as luck to be able to capture shots of them when they do on occasion perch. There were several other birds I had not seen before, and of course I enjoyed seeing the southern African birds too, all so beautifully photographed.

  17. What a wonderful collection of birds from all over the rainbow, Jet and Athena. We have a few colorful birds here, well all are colorful, but not as many as you have collected photographically from your travels. Thank you for sharing all the beauty.

    • Hi Wilma, I’m so glad you enjoyed the rainbow of birds. I like your phrase “feast to the eyes,” and am happy to share this smorgasbord with you. Cheers to you, and hoping your weekend ahead is a delight.

  18. Lovely post, Jet. I saw a bird couple in my back yard today that I had never seen before. The male looked like the photo of the Black-headed Grosbeak in your post. I looked up their range and they don’t seem to come anywhere near Michigan. I wonder if climate change has changed their range, or if I just misidentified the bird. It was an unexpected gift from the universe.

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