• Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

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Hummingbirds may be the world’s most colourful birds

A study of 116 species of hummingbird suggests the group is collectively more colourful than any other type of bird

Life 24 June 2022

Lophornis ornatus and Panterpes insignis

Two colourful hummingbirds: Lophornis ornatus (left) and Panterpes insignis (right)

Glenn Bartley

Hummingbirds are potentially the most colourful birds in the animal kingdom – at least, they are from the perspective of the birds themselves. An analysis of 114 species of the small, nectar-supping birds suggests they can collectively produce more than one-third of the colours their eyes can theoretically detect.

Birds in general are renowned for their colours, but exactly how colourful they are is difficult to quantify. One way to measure colourfulness is to consider the theoretical total number of colours birds …