The beauty of the Painted Bunting and the color and function of feathers
From the Editor -- June 2006
April 21, 2006
Could there be a better bird than a male Painted Bunting to put on the cover of an issue devoted to feathers? I don't think so. John Van de Graaff's extraordinary photo truly shows vivid colors, the subject of one of our feature articles: The bunting's head is rich blue, its back is lime-green, and its rump, throat, and underparts are bright red, as is the ring around the black eye. It makes you wonder how a bird so small could be so colorful. And why.
Vivid color, though, is only part of the reason we liked the photo. Just look at the variety of feathers shown: The bunting's tail projects from beneath a stack of clearly defined wing feathers, and those lime-green back feathers, raised ever so slightly - probably only for as long as it took John to snap the picture - rest atop red coverts, which lie over green coverts. Each feather is a part of the same coat, but each has a one-of-a-kind shape, a one-of-a-kind function. (And the functions of feathers is the subject of another article in this issue.)
But there's yet another reason we like the Painted Bunting - and that's because you told us you liked it too. Many, many thanks to those of you who studied the sample covers we put up on our website and voted for your favorite. I think you made a great choice.
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