Why are there so few green birds in temperate climates?

It just occurred to me this morning, after catching sight of a cardinal in my yard, that there are quite a few birds with significant amounts of red, yellow, black, blue, orange and white in their plumage. But there don’t seem to be many with green, at least in temperate climates. In the tropics, you have many species of parrots, quetzals, jays and others. In the temperate zone, you have some hummingbird species.

Why are birds with significant amounts of green on them so rare in temperate areas?

I think you’re probably generalising from a small sample. Birds in the tropics include many brighter examples generally, but green is not really uncommon in the northern temperate zone.

Green herons and mallards, too.

Somebody should search for the thread that says birds aren’t green.

Pasadena Parrots: they are distinctly green. They are non-native, of course, but they seem to have flourished for decades, and you see small flocks of them around the area quite often. I am not sure if Southern California exactly counts as “temperate”, but it is not tropical.

See also: The California Parrot Project. (Band name?)

Male mallard ducks have green heads.

Green herons aren’t particularly green, to the point where you look at them and ask “Why are they called green herons?” Certainly not lorikeet green which is probably what the OP was asking about.

I’d guess it’s that a bright green bird would stand out too well during the six months of the year that the leaves are not green. Although that doesn’t explain the lack of bright green migrating passerines. So…I dunno. Pretty good question.

I have noticed that the yellow birds such as gold finches and yellow warblers blend into the local underbrush extremely well. So maybe it’s just that brown and yellow are fractionally better colors for avoiding predators up here in the frozen north.

Finches, woodpeckers, siskins, buntings, tits, crossbills, and warblers here in the UK all have members who are green in part or whole.

The Carolina Parakeet was bright green too, but we humans buggered that up. The male Painted Bunting has a bright green patch on his back, while the female is sort of a dusty green. The male Green-Winged Teal also has prominent green patches.

The Perfect Master touched on the source of green coloration in birds in this column. In most species it requires a particular microscopic structure for the feather (to make blue) along with an overlaid yellow pigment layer. Since green coloration requires two simultaneous adaptations, my WAG would be that it’s just the luck of the draw that very few North American species ended up with them both.

I was going to mention the Carolina Parakeet - we USED to have plenty of green birds. Whoops.

And yeah, green herons are definitely not green. (Nor are blue herons very blue, except in relation to other birds.)

From the sounds of it, our equivalent here in Chicago would be the Monk Parakeets/Quaker Parrots. The University of Chicago area (Hyde Park and Washington Park) is kind of famous for them. They have a very distinct call, too.

Okay, I’ll bite. What color are green herons? (Asks the owner of a marsh that is home to a green heron rookery)

Quite a few hummingbirds are green.

Mentioned in the OP.

Green isn’t particularly good camouflage, year 'round. Brown is better, and there are LOTS of brown birds, especially, females that need to remain concealed while they nest.

This one?

temperate birds don’t pimp themselves like those jungle birds.

temperate trees are much more sparse than jungle trees, lots of open space to ground feed seeds and bugs in.

Thank you for the responses. I do realize I’m guilty of parochialism in the OP. And I had completely forgotten about mallards!

I did remember about the structural color, but I thought that was blue. Interesting.

And I did kind of think of the camouflage part, myself, this morning, after I posted this.

ETA: Duh, and it IS blue, in combination with yellow pigment. :smack: I need to try to start reading links BEFORE I comment…

Define “temperate climes”? There are lots of green birds in South Africa, for instance, and they run the gamut of greens - turacos, white-eyes, parrots, sunbirds (really pretty - check out this one), greenbuls
Last I checked, South Africa was mostly temperate. Of course, a lot of that is evergreen foliage, so that might tie in with chacoguy’s theory.

Yes. MikeS referred to it above.