Anyone venturing into the forest clearing at dusk in March and early April may notice a generally unknown natural sight: the Woodcock’s courtship flight (Scolopax rusticola)Also known as snipe stroke in hunting parlance. It’s the only way to see the well-camouflaged birds more easily than usual, as their plumage blends in almost perfectly with the forest floor on which they prefer to perch. Only the white tips of the tail feathers stand out against the brown tones of the woodpecker—revealing an unexpected register, As a team led by Jamie Dunning of the University of Akron in Ohio in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface..
According to measurements made by the working group, this part of the feather reflects 55 percent of the incident light: a third more than the feathers of other birds studied to date. Even the Caspian beetle, which is generally completely white, and the white winter plumage of the snow grouse do not come close to this value, but they still put the two species second on the reflectivity scale.
In order to see how wood chips get this brilliant white color, Dunning and his colleagues developed a computer model of the feathers’ microstructure. They used this to calculate how light particles are reflected back by the fibrous keratin protein they contain. They also investigated how the feathers are organized: the individual feathers consist of a central stalk with many small feather branches called rami, which make up the majority of the structure. The branches are held together by circular, Velcro-like “baskets”.
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