Noting the color of the iris can help identify or age a bird.

Most birds have a black pupil surrounded by a dark brown iris.  This is not always the case.  The color of the iris can change based on age or sex of the bird. Other species have a notable eye color.

Red eyes
The Red-eyed Vireo was named for the color of its eye.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Red eyes are not that unusual in birds. The Spotted Towhee, American Coot and several dove species also have red eyes.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

White eyes
The White-eyed Vireo is well known for its bright, white eye.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

Owls
Most owls have yellow eyes. However, both Barred and Barn Owls have dark brown eyes.

Great-horned Owl

Great-horned Owl

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Age-related changes in eye color
Eye color may change with age. The three accipiter species found in the U.S. are the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Goshawk. In all three of these species the eyes of juveniles are yellow, gradually turning orange and then red in the adult.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Gender differences
In a few species males and females will have a different eye color. For example, the adult male Brewer’s Blackbird has yellow eyes while females have dark eyes.

Male Brewer's Blackbird

Male Brewer’s Blackbird

 

Female Brewer's Blackbird

Female Brewer’s Blackbird

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