You may have noticed that some birds in your backyard have feathers that glisten and shine. In dim lighting, they may appear dark and plain, but in others, the plumage becomes almost metallic or jewel-like as it shimmers with brilliant hues in reds, blues, greens and violets.

These “shiny” birds have iridescent feathers. Pigments color most feathers; however, in iridescent feathers, the shimmery quality has to do with the structure of the feather’s barbules. The microscopic-sized prisms split the light rays into color components. Depending on the lighting and angle, the color shadings appear to deepen and lighten — even disappearing — as the bird moves.

Do these feathers serve a purpose? Probably.

Birds are highly visual creatures. During nesting season, color and luster can make males more appealing to female birds. A male with plenty of shine advertises health and strength, capable of defending the nest and assisting with the round-the-clock feedings. So yes, it is likely that these shiny feathers have a purpose in that they give some male birds a step up during nesting season.

Here are some of the flashiest feeder visitors whose plumage shines and shimmers when caught in the light of the sun.

The shiny red throat of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is only present on the male, as the female has a white feathered throat. Robert Winkler / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

In the backyard, hummingbirds are the epitome of show-stopping radiance. The scarlet feathers at the throat of the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird are called a gorget, and if you can get an up-close look, it’s quite the ornament for such a tiny, speedy bird.

Black-billed Magpies often sit high on fence posts and signs while keeping up a stream of calls and chatters, making them easy to see and hear. PhotographybyJHWilliams / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Black-billed Magpie

Although these intelligent corvids of the Western U.S. can appear black on first appearance, a closer look at Black-billed Magpies reveals glints of rich teals, bronzes and purples.

The feathers of European Starlings have white tips during the winter months that grow out by the time summer rolls around, leaving their feathers dark and iridescent. Chris2766 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

European Starling

Many birders are not a fan of these English imports. They are derided as a noisy, aggressive, invasive species that crowds birds and other species out of their nesting space. But look carefully at these beauties, and you can make out gorgeous tints of purple, blue and green in their shiny feathers that may just change your mind.

Tree Swallows

The green-blue plumage on the backs of Tree Swallows (shown above) glistens like jewels as they swoop, circle and twist through the air over fields and waterways to catch flying insects.

To attract the widest variety of birds to your backyard, fill your feeder with a hand-crafted, all-natural blend of seeds and nuts. Lyric Supreme Mix features black oil sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts and safflower, and other nutritious nuggets that will draw a colorful crowd.