Be Your Own Birder

The Purple Bird – Photoshopped!

Purple is a stunning color, rich and elegant, and often associated with royalty as well as compassion, sensitivity, and being a free spirit. Yet it’s a color not too often found in nature compared to other shades, therefore all the more incredible and awe-inspiring when it is seen on delicate lilacs and other flowers, deliciously ripened grapes, a stunning purple sea star, or some of the rare and exciting tropical birds that sport periwinkle, violet, plum, or amethyst shades. But look closely – not all purple birds are truly purple.

Purple Crayons - Photo by Poppy Thomas-Hill
Purple Crayons – Photo by Poppy Thomas-Hill

Purple in Nature

We all recognize the color purple, but despite its familiarity, it’s not actually found too often in natural settings. Yes, there are stunning purple flowers, and some urchins and marine creatures have intriguing purple shades, and a ripe plum can be a rich dark purple, but this color is not nearly as prevalent as primary colors.

Purple Urchins - Photo by Roy Luck
Purple Urchins – Photo by Roy Luck

Purple, in fact, is a blend of blue and red, and can vary dramatically from very light lilac and lavender hues to deep amethyst, violet, and orchid shades. Purple is also often an undertone or hint in mauve and wine shades, and it may appear or disappear depending on lighting and angle. Purple can also often be seen in iridescence, such as on the black-chinned hummingbird, common starling, or other birds that glitter in just the right light. Yet not every purple bird is really purple in a natural sense.

The Purple Azure Tit

The most common not-purple bird is the azure tit – a cunningly photoshopped image that regularly circulates online in galleries, forums, posts, emails, and more, always with people wondering what the name of the beautiful bird must be.


Ironically, the real name of the bird is the azure tit (Cyanistes cyanus), which gives a clue that this bird is photoshopped – azure is a relatively bright and unmistakable shade of blue, not anywhere close to purple.

The Original Bird

The azure tit is a widespread bird of the Paridae family, the same family that includes more than 60 species of tits, chickadees, and titmice. Azure tits are found from eastern Europe through Russia and into Mongolia and mountain regions of the Middle East, as far south as Afghanistan. They’re hardy birds, staying year-round in their range.

Azure Tit - Photo by Anna Golubeva
Azure Tit – Photo by Anna Golubeva

The original photo for the photoshopping creation was taken by Anna Gulobeva (Solisia), whose bird photography defies definition as stunning, amazing, and beautiful. The full original photo is elegantly composed and artfully framed, with the bird in clear focus and simply arranged with a soft, plain background that highlights its own softness and gentle visage.

Purple Bird and Original Photo (Cropped)
Purple Bird and Original Photo (Cropped)

When comparing the photoshopped image and the original, it’s obviously the same – while the altered image has been mirrored and colorized, the colorization is of poor quality with blurred edges and extensive pixelization – sure signs that it has been tampered with. The branch the bird is perched on is even more poorly colorized in vibrant green, with little contrast between what are obviously buds. Furthermore, look closely at the lower left of the photoshopped image and you’ll see a bit of the photographer’s copyright watermark left clumsily in place.

Why Would Anyone Be Fooled?

This photo manipulation, while the overall image quality is poor, is often mistaken for reality because the bird is still perched on a green branch, and there are bits of other colors – a gray patch in the wings, the white on the head, the softness of the background – left intact. Perhaps because purple is so rare in many natural settings, many people truly want to believe such a beautiful bird could exist. Furthermore, when a poor-quality image is seen on a small scale – such as with a thumbnail or an image on a phone – the pixelization and blurring may not be quite as obvious, and therefore the photo could look even more authentic.

Yet there’s no reason to be fooled, or to wish for such a lovely purple bird, when plenty of beautiful purple birds do exist. While many birds may not be overall purple but instead boast colorful purple patches, there’s still plenty of purple to enjoy without manipulation, editing, or alterations.

Purple-Throated Woodstar - Photo by Andy Morffew
Purple-Throated Woodstar – Photo by Andy Morffew

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