Royal Alberta Museum
visitors since 1967

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

There are many reasons why birds are colourful. First, birds, much like humans, rely heavily on vision for their daily activities. Most birds are active in the daytime and have an acute sense of vision, including a marvellous sense of colour vision. Colour ornaments also contribute significantly to mate attraction in birds. Because of intense selection on the outward appearance of males by females (sexual selection), the coloration of the plumage in some species has evolved to a high degree of complexity and boldness. The increased risk of predation associated with showy plumages (natural selection) in these instances is rarely strong enough to offset the sexual selection. Sexual selection may result from an innate preference of females for bright colours, or from the use of coloration by females to assess the quality of males (e.g., their ability to avoid predation in spite of a showy plumage). Finally, birds are well endowed with different kinds of pigments, such as melanins (black, browns, greys, dull yellows), carotenoids (bright yellows and reds) and porphyrins (reds and greens), and feather structures that produce colours (blues and greens that result from structural colours).

If you have found a bird you suspect has died from colliding with a window, please contact Corey Scobie, Assistant Curator, Ornithology, to arrange transfer to the Royal Alberta Museum. Please place the bird in a sealed bag with a piece of paper containing the date and location (address, LSD, description and/or coordinates) where it was found and name of the person who found it. Freeze the bird if you are not able to get the bird to the museum immediately. Once at the museum, the bird may then be prepared as a study skin, mount or skeleton and used for education and research purposes.

If you would like to know how to reduce the number of birds that collide with windows in your home, and/or participate in a research project aimed at better understanding why birds collide with windows please follow this link.

The white magpies are a colour variant of the common pied Black-billed Magpie, where the black in the plumage is replaced by light grey. Presumably, these birds have a genetic defect that reduces deposition of the black pigments (melanins) in the plumage. These birds are said to be imperfect albinos. They are not complete albinos, since they deposit some black pigment in the plumage and have dark eyes. Edmonton appears to have several individuals, at least 6, of these odd-looking birds. Albino magpies have been present in Edmonton since at least the 1940s. It is probable that these birds are all descendants of one individual where the grey mutation first occurred.