Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Bird's Eye View

Here is my brat Parrot: Piper. About six years ago after my childhood Budgie had died and I had returned home from traveling I decided I needed another bird. I had worked a fair bit and saved some money so that I would be able to get pretty much any parrot I wanted, however, having worked in a bird store (for a short time when I was in middle school) I chose wisely:


African Gray’s and Amazon’s are too noisy; Lorri’s need special food; Cockatoo’s are destructive. It’s quite a tough decision if you’ve been around the different breeds.


Choosing a bird is like choosing a dog that is going to live for 40-80 years. I eventually narrowed it down to two breeds, which would fit my lifestyle: the eclectus and the pionus.


Piper is a white- capped pionus. I chose him because of the breeds versatility. They don’t normally travel in flocks, they don’t eat a lot of fruit (some birds need a lot of fruit to stay healthy), they don’t chirp like those annoying cockatiels, and they tend to mate for life. Translation: he can be left home alone while I work, he won’t scream to communicate with the outside birds, and he will bond nicely with people.


One thing I wasn’t expecting was the amount of people who didn’t think he was a parrot because he didn’t have pretty colours. He’s green and blue with a peach bum. The peach colour is on his underside though and isn’t visible if he isn’t flying above you.


I found it weird that my parrot was boring so I researched him. It turns out that birds can see better than us humans. For starters, they can see ultraviolet light, whereas our eyes are sensitive to it and we loose our colour perception (when white glows and everything becomes purple).

Birds also have four dimensions of colour, which means everything that we see, they see in more vibrant hues. So a boring black crow to a bird is actually quite colourful and attractive.


Birds also use florescent colours to attract each other. That’s why some species have weird reflective markings: like a budgies cheek, a crows feather tips, or a ringneck’s, ring of colour around his neck. Take a good look at Piper again at the top of the page. Those multicolour feathers on the back of his head going down his neck are his reflective markings. They extend down his back and make him a pretty flamboyant bird when viewed by other birds, so he’s only a boring green/ blue hue to us.


Birds have many other advantages with their eyes and head. It is the most important part of their features for survival. The positioning of their eyes gives them a broader view than humans and they can also rotate their neck at least 180 degrees, sometimes more depending on the species. This allows them to see food or enemies and navigate when flying.


Ever wonder why pet birds rarely return home?

 The use of giant eyes have to be trained, it’s like returning vision to someone who was never able to see and then wondering why they can’t identify anything without touching it.  Birds need to learn how to navigate or they won’t know how. If a pet bird gets loose, unless he was taught how to find home again, he might not come back. You just have to hope he can’t fly far enough to get completely lost. This is why it’s good to let birds have a little bit of flight inside the house every now and again before you clip their wings (they learn to navigate how to land, and when they start getting obnoxious you clip them; some don’t need to be kept clipped it depends on behavior).


It’s sad that some birds are kept in cages. If they are looked after properly and trained they can learn to do everything a dog can do (fetch, rollover, speak). It takes time and patience but with a 40-80 year lifespan it just might be worth it.


On the angle of birds eyes:


On the colours that birds can see: