Friday 2 March 2012

Why do Parrots have Colourful Wings?

When Garden Girl asked me why parrots have colourful feathers I thought I knew the answer. However, I wanted to be sure I was giving her the right information, so I decided to double check on the internet. I thought this would be a quick bit of research but there is surprisingly very little about this on the internet. We also looked in a couple of books we have about birds but again, this specific question wasn't really covered. In the end we decided to ask an expert and we e-mailed ZSL to see if they could help. They were fantastic and replied about ten minutes later!

And the answer is that we don't really know!

There are two theories or ideas:

1. The colourful feathers are used to attract a mate. That is, a boy parrot trying to make a girl parrot like him enough to be his very, very best friend so they can have baby parrots together. Or, a girl parrot trying to make a boy parrot like her enough to be her very, very best friend so they can have baby parrots together.

2. The colourful feathers help parrots camouflage themselves. That is, hide themselves amongst colourful flowers and foliage so that any predators (other animals that might want to eat them) will think they are a flower.

Because animals cannot speak and tell us all about themselves we can't always learn everything we want to about them. Experts on parrots will have thought of these ideas by observing parrots in the wild, as well as by looking at what other birds and animals do. But these ideas have not yet been proven to be true. Which idea do you prefer? Could it be both?

While we were reading about parrots in one of Garden Girl's books (Feathers, Flippers and Feet, by Deborah Lock) we did discover a very interesting bit of information about how the colour in parrot feathers is created.

There is a chemical (a substance or special thing) in parrot feathers which reflects light to make the wings colourful. Light is reflected by bouncing back from the wings to be seen as colours.

If you want to learn more about parrots, have a look at these websites:

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