Scientists have always known that a hummingbird’s (and some other birds) color vision is better than a human’s. But now we know that birds actually see colors that humans can’t. Can you think of a blueish yellow or a greenish red? Most likely not, as you’ve never seen those colors.
Retinas in the eyes have cells called cones, which can distinguish colors. Humans have three different types of color cones, allowing us to see red, green, blue, and all possible mixtures. But some birds, such as the hummingbird, have a fourth cone.
Opponent neurons, a cell in your retina, start to work when you see red. If at the same time you also see green, your brain gets confused over what colors you’re seeing, so they can’t mic properly. Similar things happen with other color combinations. But this doesn’t happen with some birds, so they see more colors.
Mary Stoddard, a Princeton University student, attempted an experiment with hummingbirds. The birds were able to distinguish nonspectral-colored objects from spectral-colored objects. Now, people are beginning to learn more about animals’ color vision, but there’s still a lack of information.
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- Morell V., 2020, Hummingbirds see colors we can’t even imagine on National Geographic – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/06/hummingbirds-see-colors-outside-rainbow/
- Wolchover N., 2012, Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can’t See on Live Science – https://www.livescience.com/17948-red-green-blue-yellow-stunning-colors.html
- Fuller-Wright L., 2020, Wild hummingbirds see a broad range of colors humans can only imagine on Princeton University – https://www.princeton.edu/news/2020/06/15/wild-hummingbirds-see-broad-range-colors-humans-can-only-imagine