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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dyeing nectar with red food coloring causes DNA damage to Hummingbirds

Broad-billed Hummingbird
 Hummingbirds and butterflies love clear nectar. Food coloring (red or any other color) has never, in all recorded history, been proven to be effective. It's just a fable, augmented by a few anecdotes. In fact it’s genetically harmful. It’s been proven via several well-documented studies to mess up the DNA of newborns.
On hot days, red food coloring probably will introduce some tiny bits of mold or bacteria, which will rapidly multiply in our Texas heat and ruin your whole batch of nectar. Result: Hummingbirds will look somewhere else for nectar.

Seeing the world through a bird’s eyes    It would certainly look a lot different. Besides seeing all the colors of the rainbow, scientists tell us that many birds can see into the ultra-violet spectrum, too. (as a kid I learned that the rainbow humans see is “Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet”.  Therefore, birds can see what’s beyond violet; ultraviolet.)
Human birdwatchers of all abilities often have difficulty telling male birds apart from females of the same species. However, research using ultraviolet light shows that males and females frequently have radically different markings that we can’t see. An extreme example from north Texas is the Brown Creeper. The Brown Creeper itself, however, has no problem at all.

Additionally, ultraviolet vision can also help birds in finding food. Research with Kestrels has shown that they can see trails of rodent urine; known to reflect ultraviolet light. I’m not suggesting this as a method, but I’m sure you can come up with many other colorful alternatives.


OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

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