It turns out the blackbird isn’t even the blackest bird. Time for a name change, ornithologists.
In the eastern regions of Oceania, the birds-of-paradise — especially those of the Ptiloris genus — have feathers that challenge even the blackest artificial substance in the world, known as Vantablack, which absorbs 99.965 percent of light. If you shine a laser on Vantablack, the red dot actually disappears.
Evolutionary biologists at Harvard University published a study on January 9 in Nature Communications, in which they explain how the superblack feathers of the birds-of-paradise can absorb up to 99.95 percent of light.
The mesmerisingly deep black of the riflebird is produced by the microscopic structure of its feathers. Other birds’ feathers have lots of tiny filaments that are flat and well-organised, whereas the Ptiloris birds-of-paradise have filaments that are tightly packed and bend upward, with deep gaps between them.
As light hits the feather, it bounces around these gaps, getting lost in the dark forest as it is gradually absorbed (and transferred into other kinds of energy). The scientists speculate that the superblack feathers accentuate the colourful patches on the bird, making them look even brighter in order to impress females during courtship. I repeat, they speculate.
Similar to Vantablack objects, the light absorption rate of their feathers are enough to make them look like flat, 2D objects with the right angle.
And there’s nothing the male riflebird knows better than angles: