how do parrots see the world?

How Well Can Parrots See?

Birds are known for their good eyesight. Prey animals, such as parrots, have vision tailored for spotting threats and sources of food. So, they can’t see with the same level of clarity as birds of prey, such as raptors.

The peripheral and depth perception of parrots is superior to humans. They can track movement with greater clarity and can see more colors than us. They can even see ultraviolet light and fast-moving light. Parrots can’t see infrared light and don’t have night vision, so a low-watt light bulb will appear to blink.

Parrots can easily see movement and quickly detect predators. When holding still, parrots have a blind spot directly behind their head. They move their heads constantly to compensate. Parrots also bob their heads to make their vision sharper. This enables them to spot people, animals, and other objects more effectively than humans.

Parrot Vision Range

The positioning of the eyes on each side of the head is an evolutionary trait found in most prey animals. Since they need to be constantly on the lookout for danger, this gives them the broadest range of vision.

The eyesight of parrots has the following features:

  • A horizontal field of view
  • Can see in a 300-degree range
  • Have monocular vision

With monocular vision, parrots have a small blind spot at the back of their heads. This means that predators can sneak up on them from directly behind.

However, parrots use their keen hearing and head-bobbing motion to compensate. By moving the head often, this blind spot shifts and reveals anything that’s behind them.

How Far Can Parrots See?

The downside to monocular vision is that parrots don’t have good depth perception. The distance between each eye means that their brain can’t create the effect of stereopsis in the same way that birds of prey can.

Parrots compensate for this by moving their heads rapidly. This allows them to piece the image in their mind and calculate how far away something is located.

Parrots that have detected a sudden movement will quickly bob their head. If you see a parrot doing this, it may be scared by a nearby danger. It’s now trying to hone its vision for confirmation.

Even with this limited amount of clarity, parrots have better depth perception than humans.

how far can parrots see?

How Do Parrots See the World?

Parrots see the world differently than humans or birds of prey. For example, owls, hawks, and falcons have their eyes placed close together and facing forward.

This kind of positioning gives animals (and humans) binocular vision. Despite our eyes being close together, they’re still at different angles and can create different images when viewing an object.

Predators can focus on a single object with both eyes, which creates an effect called stereopsis. The brain takes information from both eyes and creates a single image. This is to calculate the depth of the object in the scene.

Your parrot sees the world as broader, flatter, and sharper than you. Although it needs to move its head to condense the images, it can still see farther.

How Do Parrots See Color?

Parrots have four types of color receptors:

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Red
  • All combinations that these colors create
  • Ultraviolet light

Humans cannot see ultraviolet light.

Foraging

According to Nature Communications, parrots have greater foraging abilities due to their ability to detect ultraviolet light. They can see the ultraviolet reflect off leaves, so there’s a higher level of contrast.

A bush may look like an incomprehensible mess of green to humans. However, parrots can make out each leaf. This enables them to spot insects and berries easily, even from a distance.

Communicating And Mating

Parrots use ultraviolet light to communicate with each other and make decisions.

According to the University of Gothenburg, parrots can differentiate between males and females due to the ultraviolet reflection on their feather patches.

Female parrots tend to prefer males with the most vibrant ultraviolet reflections.

Tending To Chicks

Baby parrots have reflective patches on their foreheads. When a baby parrot is underweight or smaller than its siblings, the ultraviolet reflection will be brighter.

Researchers have observed adult parrots feeding chicks that had the brightest patches first. This means that the adults used the different colors to determine which chicks needed more assistance.

Choosing Food

Parrots prefer certain foods due to the ultraviolet reflection they give off. Birds are evolutionarily drawn to foods that appear brighter. These are usually the easiest to find when foraging.

How Do Parrots See Light?

Parrots perceive light in waves, just like humans. However, they can detect the waves faster than we can. This means light that appears solid to us is flickers in the eyes of a parrot.

CRI light bulbs can affect your parrot’s mood. The color rendering index is the scale used to determine the speed of light emitted by a source, such as a light bulb.

Most households have light bulbs with a CRI of 60 to 80. This is fine for human eyes but not for parrots. Parrots can only perceive the light as solid when it has a CRI above 90.

Poor lighting and constant flickering will affect your parrot’s sleeping pattern, leading to behavioral issues.

How Fast Can Parrots See Light?

Birds can detect light faster than humans because they have higher critical flicker-fusion frequency (CFF). According to the Department of Animal Ecology from Uppsala University, since birds have a higher CFF, they can:

  • Detect light faster
  • See the path of a rapid-moving object better

Humans have an average visual speed of 40 frames per second (going as high as 60 frames per second). Meanwhile, birds have an average visual speed of 120 frames per second. While we have trouble tracking fast-moving objects, parrots can track them with ease.

For example, consider how a fly moves. For parrots, they can see a detailed, smooth view of the flight path due to their light detection abilities.

Do Parrots Have Blurry Vision?

Unlike some creatures with horizontal vision, parrots don’t see the world in a blur.

They see at a lower resolution than birds of prey, but eagles can see eight times as far as humans. Parrots can’t compete with raptor vision, but they still have better spatial resolution than us.

Spatial resolution refers to the quality of an image. Raptors are birds with exceptional spatial resolution, the best in the animal kingdom. So, they’re able to see objects with perfect clarity from long distances.

They aren’t able to track fast-moving targets as well as parrots. That’s good news since parrots have a greater need to detect rapid movement when foraging and watching for predators. So, they never evolved their spatial resolution.

Can Parrots See in the Dark?

Unfortunately, parrots lack night vision. They cannot see in the dark and are vulnerable during the night.

Parrots are diurnal birds, meaning that they are almost exclusively active during the day. They evolved into seeing exceptionally well as long as there is sufficient light. However, because they sleep at night, there was no evolutionary need to have good eyesight when it’s dark.

Photoreceptors are the cells in a parrot’s retinas. They can be split into two types: rods and cones. While cones are in charge of color perception, rods enable parrots to detect changes in lighting, movement, and shapes. When it’s dark, rods do all the work.

The number of rods determines how well an animal can see in the dark. Animals such as cats have 6-8 times more rods than humans and parrots. However, that’s to be expected of nocturnal creatures.

Can Parrots See Infrared Light?

Parrots cannot detect infrared light because its wavelength is too long and frequency too low for them to detect. These ‘invisible lights’ include x-rays, gamma rays, and microwaves.

Their wavelengths are measured in nanometers. Parrots are unable to detect any light with a wavelength above 700 nanometers. Infrared light has a wavelength of 780 to 300,000 nanometers.

Are Parrots Color Blind?

Parrots have 4 color receptors: green, blue, red, and ultraviolet. They possess more cones in their retinas than humans, so they can see more colors than we can.

If you’ve seen an image trying to replicate what ultraviolet looks like, you might assume the colors are monochromatic. This leads people to believe that parrots can only see things with a purple hue. That’s untrue.

Because parrots have 4 color receptors, they view all the same colors as humans. The ability to detect ultraviolet light does make things look rather purple.

However, a parrot’s eyes are mostly looking at how objects reflect ultraviolet light. They’re still able to see each distinct color, as long as it doesn’t emit or reflect ultraviolet light.

What Does Parrot Vision Look Like?

Because parrots have eyes on each side of their head, they have a wide view of the world. Just look at any panoramic photograph taken with a wide lens. This will give you an accurate idea of how much a parrot can see.

As for color, it’s not enough to look up pictures of ultraviolet photographs created by photographers. Remember that humans aren’t able to detect ultraviolet. Any depiction of the color is guesswork.  

Machines exist that can apply an ultraviolet filter to images in a way we can understand. However, it still doesn’t accurately represent what parrot vision is like.

The closest we can achieve are the images that researchers create using specialized tools and 3D modeling. These methods transform the images instead of just placing a filter over them.

To understand how smoothly a parrot can see movement, consider their ultra-rapid vision. You need to find a video with a frame rate of 30 frames per second. Spend about 5-10 minutes watching this video, then switch to a video that’s 60 frames per second.

Humans can’t get up to the 120 frames per second that parrots can.

Why Do Parrots Eyes Flash?

If you pay close attention to the parrot’s eyes, you’ll notice its pupils dilating.

This is known as eye pinning or eye flashing. It’s a form of nonverbal communication mostly seen in African grey parrots, cockatiels, and macaws.

Parrots can control their pupil dilation. If your parrot’s eyes are pinning, it’s trying to tell you something.

For the most part, eye pinning occurs when parrots are:

  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Excited
  • Curious
parrot eye pinning meaning

Why Do Parrots Eyes Pin?

Eye pinning is usually a response to external stimuli. Think back on what could have made the parrot feel unsafe.

When angry or scared, the parrot will hiss and crouch while staring at you intently. It may also do this when it’s about to lunge and bite at you.

When curious or excited, a parrot’s crest or neck feather will be slightly raised.

Depending on the parrot, it will also:

  • Chirp
  • Flap its tail
  • Repeat words
  • Bounce up and down

This is a sign that the parrot is happy to see you or wants to play. The eye pinning will usually be accompanied by positive sentiment or body language.

More often than not, a parrot’s eyes will flash when angry, but there’s a chance that it’s happy.

Why Do Parrots Eyes Dilate?

Some parrot species, such as budgies, use eye pinning to communicate with a potential mate.

In this case, it’s courtship behavior and will be accompanied by:

Parrots can become attached to their humans. If yours believes that you have accepted its request to be a mate, you could end up frustrating your parrot. This can lead to many behavioral problems in the future.

Parrot Eye Pinning Meaning

According to University Walk, eye pinning may correlate with a rehearsing process for parrots. Researchers observed that a parrot’s eyes contract a few milliseconds before mimicking sounds that it learned from humans.

This behavior didn’t apply when it made normal parrot sounds, such as squawks. Likewise, it was not observed in non-mimicking parrots. This led researchers to believe that pupil dilation enables parrots to memorize sounds so that they can use them to communicate with others.

Pay close attention when your parrot flashes its eyes. It can be good or bad news, and you’ll only know based on its other body language. Parrots see the world uniquely, so you’ll need to learn how it’s communicating with you.