Most bird watchers and scientists say that there are roughly 9,000 to 10,000 species of birds. One of the main ways to identify them is physical appearance and once you start looking closer, it becomes obvious that birds come in many shapes and colors. And some are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. From those with incredible eyelashes to the ones that look like tiny cotton balls, continue scrolling and check out some of the most beautiful birds from around the world.
Understanding the differences between bird plumages is vital to everyone who want to identify them. The term refers to a bird's feathers, including the color and pattern those feathers produce.
Birds have developed intricate plumages due to various aspects, including protection from predators, via camouflage, and sending sexual signals to potential mates. Birds usually lose and replace their feathers at least once a year through molt and regrowth.
"Each feather on a bird's body is a finely tuned structure that serves an important role in the bird's activities," Mya Thompson, the co-director for Engagement in Science and Nature for the Cornell Lab, wrote. "Feathers allow birds to fly, but they also help them show off, blend in, stay warm, and keep dry."
"Some feathers evolved as specialized airfoil for efficient flight. Others have been shaped into extreme ornamental forms that create impressive displays but may even hinder mobility. Often we can readily tell how a feather functions, but sometimes the role of a feather is mysterious and we need a scientific study to fill in the picture," Thompson explained.
A good example of one of these mysteries are feather tufts on the heads of Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) which are often mistaken for ears. These modified contour feathers are completely separate from the ear and do not help owls hear, yet scientists can't explain the function of these tufts. Some think the horns are for display, others suggest that owls use them for more complete camouflage while roosting in daylight, but no one knows for sure.