lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

H is for Hue – The Secret Miracle of Birds

painted buntig, Ralph Arvesen

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) by Ralph Arvesen, Flikr.



The secret universe of birds is extraordinary – and completely unavailable to us. Their vision has more acuity – they can see far finer grades of every colour than we can. A lemon-yellow petal to them may be a myriad of lemon-ness we will never experience.

Colour is parts of light. Our eyes contain three cones that perceive red, blue and green light. From those colours and mixes of them, we see all the many colours available to us (but not in as much detail as a bird would) from that part of the spectrum, our visible spectrum.

But birds have a fourth cone, and that cone is sensitive to ultraviolet light, or UV. They see all colours available to us plus the finer grades of those, plus uv colours plus all those red, green, blue hues mixed with uv colours – colours that we cannot even guess at.

Even when we look at petals and feathers and things which we know look different under uv light – we can only see that they are different, like looking at red and yellow in black and white, we see one is darker, one is lighter, but we cannot see the colour. Because we have no cone we cannot see UV, but also, our brain would not be able to decode the colours we were seeing.

What sort of a world do birds inhabit? A very different one to us.


Photo © Ralph Arvesen.

Poem © Liz Brownlee.

Information from the book Bird Colouration by Geoffrey E. Hill, pub. National Geographic April 2010.

If you would like to blog-hop to the next A-Z Challenge blog, please click here.

If you’d like to read about or buy my book, Animal Magic, full of animal poems and fascinating facts, click here.


  1. Great post, thanks for sharing!


  2. helldoesntownme

    Bird is your song of color trails?

    Exquisite. Thank you. Visiting from A to Z Challenge (


    • Thank you! Off to see yours now, it’s always good to be left a link!


  3. I spend a lot of time watching birds in my garden but there is nothing as colourful as the painted bunting.
    Good to see Lola too.


    • Wow, I would love to have birds as beautiful as this in my garden! Mind you, we have goldfinches, and they are pretty gorgeous!


  4. What can I say Liz? Beautiful, and that’s a perfect picture for the poem x


  5. Liz

    Lovely delicate poem, and as always I learn something from your words.


  6. Nicely done! I love the image, too!

    A to Z:


    • Thanks, Deborah! It is a wonderful image, after the A-Z I am going to look up more macro photography!


  7. djts

    Perfect picture for hue and for the colorful poem. It is always amazing to think about the senses of animals and how much more acute many of them are than ours. “a secret universe of hue” Lovely.
    Donna Smith
    The A-to-Z Challenge
    Mainely Write


    • Thank you Donna! Will come and see you tomorrow – today I have been agonised by the poem after next and haven’t done anything, not even the washing up!


  8. Gede Prama

    Thank you for your message, and yes I am following. blessings to you!, and Thank you SO much and greetings… 🙂


Please comment here! Thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: