Have you ever stopped to think about how other people see the world?
No two people see the world alike.
In fact, for people who are color-blind, nothing is more true.
For people, there are different types of color-blindness.
Some people have difficulty seeing reds and greens, others have a hard time seeing blues and yellows, and so on and so forth.
To think about how they see the world is fascinating.
But what about our parrots?
How do they see the world?
Do they see it in color?
Or are they, like some people, color blind?
The answer to this question is no, parrots are not color-blind. In fact, parrots can see all of the same colors that we do.
What’s really fascinating, however, is that they can actually see ultraviolet light too.
This is something that we as humans cannot do without the use of special technologies.
But how is it that parrots can see more on spectrum than we can?
Today we’ll dive more into the topic of parrot sight.
How does it work?
How can they see ultraviolet light?
What are the differences between a parrots eyes and a humans eyes?
Today we will answer all of these questions and more, so let’s not waste another minute!
What does the world look like to a parrot? How does their eyesight work?
As mentioned above, parrots can see everything that humans can.
They can see reds, blues, greens, yellows, and any other color on the spectrum.
So in some ways, parrots see the world in a similar light to us.
With that being said, parrots are also able to see ultraviolet light.
To understand how this is possible, let’s take a look at the difference between a human eye and the eye of a parrot.
Humans have two types of photoreceptors in their eyes called rods and cones that help them to see.
Rods help us with our scotopic vision, or our ability to see at night or in dim light.
Cones help us with our photopic vision, or our ability to see in the daylight.
When it comes to our ability to see color, it’s our cones that are in charge.
Humans have 6-7 million cones in their retina that are responsible for color vision.
They are concentrated within the centre of the macula (known as the fovea).
When the number of cones in someone’s fovea are deficient or absent, the result is color-blindness.
Some animals, like cats and dogs, only have a certain number of cones in their eyes, which is why they are incapable of seeing some colors.
The same is not true for parrots.
Parrots, in fact, have more cones in their eyes than humans do.
These additional cones are what allow parrots to see ultraviolet light, in addition to all of the colors on the spectrum.
What is Ultraviolet light?
Many objects and things in this world emit radiation – the largest one being the sun.
It’s the sun’s ultraviolet rays that shine down on us and give us a nice tan – or a horrible burn.
Similar radiated energy is given off by other objects as well – light bulbs, burning fires, and stars to name just a few.
The type of radiation being emitted depends on the temperature of the object doing the emission.
Humans cannot see these ultraviolet lights unless they use special tools like this torch on Amazon.
For example, if you were to put a prism up to a lightbulb, you might see a spectrum of color pass through it in the form of a rainbow.
It’s also very similar to the idea of using a black light in a dark room.
Parrots, however, don’t need special tools or equipment to see this kind of light – they just need their own eyes.
Why do parrots see ultraviolet light?
The truth is, science has not definitely proven why parrots have evolved to be able to see ultraviolet light.
With that being said, the main theory is that they use this ability to differentiate between males and females in the wild.
Why is this important?
To us, it would be very difficult to distinguish a male parrot from a female parrot based on their color alone.
That’s okay because we’re not looking for a parrot to mate with.
However, parrots in the wild need to be able to distinguish the difference between males and females if they want to attract a mate.
With the help of their ultraviolet vision, they can easily distinguish between male parrots and female parrots.
Again, as humans, we cannot distinguish this difference without the help of specialized tools and equipment.
That’s why the University of Gothenburg in Sweden decided to use special devices to look at the ultraviolet coloring among parrots of similar colors.
To the naked eye, males and females both looked the same.
But when viewed under an ultraviolet light device, there was actually a significant difference between the two genders.
Further research showed that females preferred male parrots with the brightest and most reflective feathers.
So is it possible that parrots use this type of vision to mate?
Ultraviolet light and food
While it’s possible that parrots evolved to have ultraviolet vision for mating purposes, it’s also possible that they evolved this type of vision for nutritional purposes.
More specifically, many of the insects that parrots eat in the wild have coatings on their body that reflect UV lighting.
In return, the ability to see UV rays can help birds to seek out insects as a food source.
It may also make it easier for them to locate bright fruits and berries, which may also reflect ultraviolet light.
What is a parrots best sense?
Of all the parrots senses, it’s no surprise that their best one is their sense of sight.
Not only can birds see a full range of colors and ultraviolet light, but they also have a fantastic field of vision.
As humans, we have a 120 degree field of vision.
But because parrots eyes are on the sides of their head, they actually have a 300 degree field of vision.
That means that they can see both in front of them, as well as to both sides of them all at the same time.
As you can imagine, this is a great ability to have as a form of protection in the wild.
Can parrots still see color in the dark?
As we have already established, parrots have excellent color vision.
But does this vision extend into the night or is it only something that works well during the daylight hours?
Research by the Lund University Vision Group has established the latter to be true.
Using a variety of behavioral experiments, the group found that parrots only had the ability to see color and UV light during the daytime.
At night, their color vision faded drastically.
In fact, it was found that parrots need 5-20 times more light to see colors as humans do.
Or to put things more simply, parrots lose their ability to see in color shortly after the sun goes down.
So even though they can see better than us during the day, their ability to see color fades at night.
In conclusion, no, parrots are not colorblind.
In fact, during most of the day, parrots can see more colors than we can and have the amazing ability to see ultraviolet light.
While the exact evolutionary purpose of this ability is unknown, researchers theorize that it could have to do with finding food and finding a mate.
Either way, it would be very neat to see the world through a parrots eyes and maybe one day we will be able to do just that!
In the meantime we could just use a ultraviolet torch like this one from Amazon