PARROT FLASH COLORS AND COMMUNICATION WITH COLOR
by Sally Blanchard
- Color patterns on a parrot are distinctive to a species but also identify an individual among other parrots of the same species from a distance. Research has shown that parrots do not perceive color in the same exact way we do. They see in the ultraviolet range. They obviously communicate with their colorful feathers. This alone is evidence that they have excellent color vision. - Look at the bend of the wing or the tail feathers of an Amazon when he is resting. Usually, you see only a touch of color, but look again when he is excited or displaying with his wings. You see all the colors clearly. The same thing is true of the crest of many cockatoo species. Crestless parrots may erect the colorful feathers on their napes and other parts of their heads to communicate. Caiques puff out the feathers on their thighs to form brightly colored pantaloons. The bare patch on a macaw’s face often flushes with red when he becomes excited. A Red-fronted Macaw has beautiful orange sherbet colored feathers on the insides of his wings. This color is seen only when he is in flight or when he spreads his wings. While many companion parrots quiver their wings as a preflight communication to come and pick them up, the red-front often spreads his wings for his human flock to show off how beautiful they are. Who could resist such an invitation for close companionship? - Flash colors are used in many ways. Some are only evident in flight, others identify the individual bird, many are used to warn intruders to leave the territory, and parrots puff out their feathers to show off their colors as direct advertising for a mate. In the world of birds, the ones with the most intricate color displays are often the ones who are most successful in attracting the best mates. - Some flash colors can actually make parrots wary or even fearful. I found that my African grey Bongo Marie was afraid of a red nozzle on a spray bottle but when I got one with a blue nozzle she had no trouble with it at all. I am not sure why but there is no doubt that red is a flash color for greys with their red tails. About 30 years ago, I had a friend that was convinced that her grey was afraid of yellow. When I sold bird toys, she insisted that I change out all of the yellow toy parts for any other color. She lived not far from me and asked me to bird sit when her family was going out of town. I had to see if what she believed about yellow was true. I gave him a toy that he was used to but didn't change the yellow colored part of it. I put it in his cage telling him calmly that it was a wonderful toy. He freaked out and I had to take it out right away for him to calm down. I don't know if this is true for other greys or other parrots or not. It has never been true of any of my parrots. The caregiver evidently had a terrible experience that she related to the color yellow and I often wondered if that could be the reason her grey hated the color so much. - That was when I first started researching flash colors and how parrots see color. I found a lot about other birds but most of it applied to parrots too. We know a lot more about color vision in parrots and I will be posting more in the future.