Chemistry is for the Birds: Chemical Names the inspired bird names

By Dwight Chasar

Did you know that the names of some birds often come from chemistry? These compounds and minerals are not responsible for creating bird color but have lent their names, at least in part, to birds of their colors.  The table below gives examples of birds that fit these criteria but many more can be found by going to the link: . Type in the bird name example I have given or the chemical name itself in the appropriate space and see the bird photo that appears.  Even just a partial name of a chemical may show you a number of bird names in the drop down menu.  Just click on one of those bird options and see the photo of the bird.  The list in the table is not meant to be all inclusive.  It might be fun to explore other possibilities.

Element, Chemical, Mineral, GemFormula (roughly)ColorExample of bird name
GoldAuyellowCommon Goldeneye
SilverAgwhiteSilvery Tanager
SulphurSyellowSulphur-bellied Flycatcher
CopperCucopperishCopper Pheasant
LeadPbgrayPlumbeous Kite
BronzeCu, Sn, other elementsbronzeBronzy Hermit
CoalCblackCoal Tit
SlateSiO4/micagrayBluish-slate Antshrike
CarmineC24H20O13, AlredCarmine Bee-eater
VermilionHgSredVermilion Flycatcher
MalachiteCu2CO3(OH)2blueMalachite Kingfisher
Lapis Lazuli(Na,Ca)8(AlSiO4)6(S,SO4,Cl)1-2blueLazuli bunting
BerylBe3Al2Si6O18greenBerylline Hummingbird
Rubyα-Al2O3redSiberian Rubythroat
AmethystAl2O3violetAmethyst Brown-Dove
EmeraldBe3Al2Si6O18:Cr+3greenEmerald-spotted Wood-dove
TopazAl2(F,OH)2SiO4gold/brownCrimson Topaz
Sapphireα-Al2O3 +trace metalsblueGreat Sapphirewing
CitrineSiO2 + trace Fe+3yellowCitrine Wagtail
TourmalineAl6B3Fe3H10NaO31Si6variousTourmaline Sunangel
AzuriteCu3(CO3)2(OH)2blueAzure Jay
PearlCaCO3whiteishPearl-spotted Owl
OpalSiO2 nH2OvariousOpal-crowned Manakin
IndigoC16H10N2O2blueIndigo Bunting