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do parrots blink?

Do Parrots Have Eyelids? (Nictating Membrane + Blinking)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots have eyes that sit flat against the sides of their heads, which is called monocular vision.

It’s hard to see the eyelids, especially when they blink. Eyelids keep the eyes moist and harmful particles out. Parrots have an upper eyelid, lower eyelid, and a nictating membrane (third eyelid).

The nictitating membrane is a translucent layer covering the entire eye. It enables parrots to keep their eyes moist and the cornea protected from harm while still being able to see well.

The nictitating membrane is a thin, transparent layer, meaning it’s hard to tell when a parrot blinks.

If a parrot is sleeping, it may do so with one eye open, only closing both eyes when entirely at ease. Parrots’ ability to sleep with one eye open is an evolutionary survival mechanism.

Parrots Blinking

Smaller parrots blink with their nictitating membrane so quickly that the human eye can’t see it.

Big parrots often blink with their top and bottom eyelids half or fully closed. Even though they seem to move only two eyelids, they mostly use their nictitating membrane.

There may be a slight movement of the top and bottom eyelids when blinking because the nictitating membrane is connected to the lower eyelid.

Detecting the third eyelid when parrots blink is difficult due to its transparency and how quickly it slides over the cornea. Usually, humans can only see this with slow-motion footage.

There are times when a parrot will blink very slowly at you.

Why Parrots Blink Slowly

Parrots will slowly blink to display:

Blink at the parrot slowly. If the parrot slowly blinks back, it has bonded with you and trusts you.

do parrots close their eyes?

Why Parrots Have Eyelids

Parrots have eyelids for the following purposes:

  • Protection from particles that could harm the eyes.
  • Lubricate the eyes so they remain moist.

Parrots’ eyelids protect the corneas, enabling them to check for threats. According to Slatter’s Fundamentals of Veterinary Ophthalmology, parrots can use their third eyelid voluntarily.

Parrots use their nictating membrane in the following situations:

Blinking

When parrots blink, they use only their third eyelid. The nictititating membrane sweeps across the eye horizontally, while the lower and upper eyelids move up and down.

The nictating membrane is thin and near-transparent, allowing it to see while it runs across the entire eye. Parrots can protect and lubricate their eyes while remaining aware of their surroundings.

Feeding Their Young

Baby chicks are blind during the first few days of their lives. Consequently, they can’t see where their food is and may accidentally poke a parent in the eye with their claws or beak.

Parrots nictitating membranes protect their corneas from the unintended actions of their offspring.

Protection During Flight

Parrots must protect their eyes from dirt particles, bad weather, and bugs, especially when flying.

With the nictitating membrane, parrots needn’t concern themselves with something getting in their eyes. This third eyelid also prevents their eyes from drying out, impairing their mid-flight vision.

Clearer Vision

Parrots may rapidly move their nictitating membrane when feeling threatened. This will keep their eyes moisturized while focusing on the source of the threat.

Motion Blur

Parrots blink with their third eyelid when bobbing their heads up and down. This enables them to control motion blur and prevent dizziness.

Parrots Closing Their Eyes

Parrots rarely close their two main eyelids, which are so thick that they can’t see through them.

This momentary blindness renders a parrot vulnerable to threats and ambushes from animals. Parrots use their third eyelid to maintain their eye health while leaving their large eyelids open.

These thicker eyelids are usually reserved for greater dangers to the eye. A parrot may close its two eyelids when a projectile is coming. These eyelids protect the cornea from harm.

Parrots Sleeping with Their Eyes Open

Parrots sleep with one eye open, only closing both eyes when safe enough to enter deep sleep.

Parrots never want to feel vulnerable, so they control their sleep intensity. When a parrot sleeps with one eye open, its brain is half asleep and half awake. This is called Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS).

Its eyes will open if there’s the slightest sound. While it may seem like your parrot is sleeping with its eyes open, it’s constantly opening and shutting its eyes as it rests.

If a parrot regularly sleeps with one eye open, this doesn’t mean it distrusts you.

It may feel safe in your home, but birds have certain instincts ingrained into them from centuries of evolution. Even when hand-reared from birth, it’s in a parrot’s DNA to stay alert while sleeping.

Leave the parrot alone while it sleeps. The more time it spends in uninterrupted sleep, the sooner it’ll enter a REM sleep cycle, which is a much deeper level of rest.

A parrot that feels comfortable enough to sleep around you will fully close its eyes. However, a tired parrot on edge will keep its eyes slightly open.

do parrots sleep with their eyes open?

Why Parrots Have Tear Ducts

Tear production via the harderian gland (Harder’s lacrimal gland) plays a pivotal role in avian eye health. Parrots have tear ducts. The electrolytes in birds’ tears are similar to those in humans.

Parrots grieve and mourn the loss of those deemed essential to their lives, as observed from their body language and vocalizations. However, they don’t cry tears like humans.

Parrots And Eyelashes

Most birds don’t have eyelashes, but some parrot species have them.

Species like Amazon parrots have sparsely distributed, modified feathers that grow from the upper eyelids. This contrasts with human eyelashes, which are modified hair-like structures.

Like birds’ eyelids, eyelashes are primarily protective, keeping out dirt and debris.

Parrot Squinting

Parrots are capable of squinting. However, if you see a parrot squinting regularly, it may have an eye infection, like conjunctivitis (pink eye). This is an infection in the conjunctiva.

You’ll usually observe swelling or redness with a problem relating to the eyes. If you can’t see any eye irritation, the discomfort is likely affecting another part of the body.

Sometimes, a parrot will squint before falling asleep. If a parrot is squinting outside its regular sleeping hours for days, it should be checked by a veterinarian because squinting signifies discomfort.

Parrots have three eyelids: the upper and lower eyelids and the nictitating membrane.

The top and bottom eyelids are like our own, fully opening and closing. The nictating membrane provides further protection from the elements.