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Top 25 Birds with Red Plumage

Red plumage is quite common in the bird kingdom, especially in males, who use their red feathers to attract females. Scientists have recently pinpointed how a bird’s genetic code allows them to produce red feathers. Birds take in yellow pigments, called carotenoids from their diet, then an enzyme called ketolase allows the bird to convert these...

Red plumage is quite common in the bird kingdom, especially in males, who use their red feathers to attract females. Scientists have recently pinpointed how a bird’s genetic code allows them to produce red feathers. Birds take in yellow pigments, called carotenoids from their diet, then an enzyme called ketolase allows the bird to convert these to red pigments for the feathers. Their research also showed that birds with red plumage have superior colour vision to other birds, in particular they are better at seeing the colour red.

Here we present the Top 25 Birds with Red Plumage. This week we were lucky enough to get submissions from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Australasia! Thank you to everyone who contributed to our theme this week and well done to all the finalists.

At first glance male and female European Goldfinches look very similar. But if you look closer, the red patch is smaller on females than males, indicating the size of the red patch may be important in mate selection (Anthony Roberts)
here we have a Scarlet Finch photographed by Mohit Kumar Ghatak at Baihualing, China
A Black-collared Barbet perches on an aloe in the Kruger National Park, South Africa (Brian Culver)
A Black-throated Sunbird takes a drink of nectar in Da Lat, Vietnam (Mohit Kumar Ghatak)
A true work of art! A pair of Sarus Cranes photographed by Indranil Bhattacharjee in Keoladeo, India
A Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on a tree in Helsinki, Finland (Oana Badiu)
The Red-crowned Parakeet, or Kākāriki in Māori, is endemic to New Zealand (Adriana Dinu)
A male Acorn Woodpecker peeks out from behind his tree in Irvine, USA (Barbara Wallace)
This Black-cheeked Woodpecker can only be found in the forests of central America. Adriana Dinu photographed this one in Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras
This Scarlet-faced Liocichla was photographed in Thailand by Saravanan Krishnamurthy
White-capped Redstarts are strongly associated with streams and marshy areas (Ganesh Rao)
Male Common House Finches need to eat foods with plenty of carotenoids during their moulting period in late summer so they can maintain their red plumage through winter (Anirban Roychowdhury)
Up close you can really appreciate the brilliant colours of this Crimson Sunbird’s plumage (Gur Simrat Singh)
Here we have a male Common Rosefinch. Red plumage is an important part of mate selection for Common Rosefinches, during the breeding season the males’ plumage becomes a brighter red, to attract females (Jasvir Faridkot)
an Indian Pitta forages on the ground, pushing aside leaf litter to find insects and other invertebrates (Indranil Bhattacharjee)
A male Malabar Trogon photographed in Kotagiri, India (Panthera Tigris)
This Maroon Oriole is rather eye catching! Pradnya Paralkar photographed this beautiful bird in Taipei, Taiwan
A female Red-naped Sapsucker brings food to her chicks (Tim Nicol)
A group of Mitred Parakeets in California, USA. These parakeets are native to South America but have been introduced to California, Florida and Hawaii. In Hawaii they are considered invasive and a threat to local biodiversity (Leslie Reagan)
A male Red-headed Finch sunning himself in Kimberley, South Africa (Brian Culver)
The Red Munias’ bright red plumage has unfortunately made these birds popular in the pet trade (Jasvir Faridkot)
This Red-capped Robin is an Australian endemic, Jamie Dolphin photographed this one in Kalgoorlie
The male Red-billed Firefinch (left) has bright red plumage, while the female (right) is a duller brown. This indicates that the red plumage in males is important in male selection (Goutam Mitra)
This vibrant bird is a Red-tailed Minla, found mainly in China but also as far west as Nepal (Shantanu Bhattacharya)
A collection of birds with red plumage would not be complete without the vibrant Northern Cardinal! (Jola Charlton)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager


Top 25 Birds with a Sugar Rush

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Meet the Author

Steve Boyes
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.