Why our fascination with fluorescent minerals at Birds on the Brink Sanctuary?

(The above photos are of the Wernerite Mineral Rock, mined from Quebec, Canada. The photo of the rock on the left was taken under natural light, while the one on the right is the same rock but taken under long-wave ultraviolet light. The long-wave light shone on the Wernerite Rock shows the fluorescent characteristics of this particular rock. Fluorescent minerals emit visible light when exposed to ultraviolet light. Photos courtesy of John Rofrano)

Have you ever wondered how birds see the world? We wanted to experience for ourselves what our birds see naturally in their visual light spectrum, which is greater than ours. It seems they see a lot that we don’t. Especially fluorescence! So we got a “black light” flashlight and shone it right on some mineral rocks and voilà! We can see the fluorescent beauty that birds naturally see when they look at bees, butterflies, plants, rocks and the clay wall at Birds on the Brink. Note of interest: bees and butterflies also see UV fluorescence.

How to see fluorescence using a black light. A black light emits what is called long-wave UV light or Ultraviolet A. Most people are familiar with the effects of long-wave UV light on black light posters or making white clothing glow in the dark. While the whitening chemicals in detergents make clothes fluoresce, it is elements like uranium or manganese that “activate” fluorescence in some rocks. So with the use of a UVA/long-wave light, UVB/medium-wave light or a UVC/short-wave light, we can see a world of color beyond what our eyes can normally see.

When you visit the Sanctuary, we will give you a black light flashlight to keep so that you may have as fascinating a fluorescent experience as our birds!

 

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