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how do parrots see the world?

How Well Can Parrots See?

Last Updated on: 3rd October 2023, 11:24 am

Parrots have eyesight tailored for identifying abundant food sources and threats. However, they can’t see with the same level of clarity as birds of prey like raptors and eagles.

Parrots’ peripheral vision and depth perception are superior to humans, meaning they can track movement more clearly. They can also see more colors than humans.

Parrots can see ultraviolet light and fast-moving light. However, they can’t see infrared light and don’t have night vision, meaning that a low-watt light bulb will appear to blink.

Parrot Vision Range

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

The eyesight of parrots has the following features:

  • Horizontal field of view.
  • 300-degree range of vision.
  • Monocular vision.

Due to monocular vision, parrots have a small blind spot behind their heads, meaning predators can sneak up from behind. So, parrots use their excellent hearing and head-bobbing motion to compensate.

How Far Can Parrots See?

The problem with monocular vision is poor depth perception due to the distance between each eye, meaning the brain can’t create the effect of stereopsis like birds of prey.

Parrots compensate for this weakness by moving their heads rapidly, allowing them to piece the image in their minds and calculate how far away something is.

Parrots that have detected a sudden movement will quickly bob their heads. If you see a parrot doing this, it may have been scared by a nearby danger and is trying to hone its vision for confirmation.

Even with this limited 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 binocular vision. Despite our eyes being close together, they’re still at different angles and can create various 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 to calculate the object’s depth in the scene.

Parrots see the world as broader, flatter, and sharper than humans. Although they must move their heads to condense images, they can still see further.

How Do Parrots See Color?

Parrots have 4 types of color receptors:

  • Green.
  • Blue.
  • Red.
  • Ultraviolet light.

Parrots can see all the combinations that these colors create.


According to Nature Communications, parrots have more foraging abilities due to their ability to detect ultraviolet light. They can see the ultraviolet reflect off leaves, showing a higher contrast.

A bush may look like an incomprehensible mass of green to humans. However, parrots can make out each leaf, enabling them to see insects and berries, 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 prefer males with the most vibrant ultraviolet reflections.

Tending To Chicks

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

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

Choosing Food

Parrots prefer certain foods due to their ultraviolet reflection. Birds are evolutionarily drawn to foods that appear brighter as they’re easier to find when foraging.

How Do Parrots See Light?

Parrots perceive light in waves, detecting them faster than humans, which means light that appears solid to us flickers in parrots’ eyes.

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

Most households have light bulbs with a CRI of 60 to 80. This is okay for human eyes but not parrots because they can only perceive light as solid with a CRI above 90.

Poor lighting and constant flickering affect a parrot’s sleeping patterns, 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 at Uppsala University, birds can do the following:

  • 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). Meanwhile, birds have an average visual rate of 120 frames per second.

While humans have difficulty tracking fast-moving objects, parrots can easily track them. Due to their light detection skills, parrots can see a detailed, smooth view of a flight path.

Do Parrots Have Blurry Vision?

Parrots see a lower resolution than birds of prey, but eagles can see 8 times as far as humans. Parrots can’t compete with raptor vision but still have better spatial resolution than humans.

Spatial resolution refers to the quality of an image. Raptors’ superb spatial resolution means they can see objects with perfect clarity from long distances.

Raptors can’t track fast-moving targets as well as parrots, which is vital since they need to detect rapid movement when foraging and watching for predators.

Can Parrots See in the Dark?

Parrots don’t have night vision, so they can’t see well in the dark and are vulnerable at night.

Parrots are diurnal, so they’re active during the day. They can see well when there’s sufficient light. As they sleep at night, there’s no evolutionary need for good night vision.

Photoreceptors are retina cells that can be split into rods and cones.

While cones are responsible for color perception, rods enable parrots to detect changes in lighting, movement, and shapes. When it’s dark, rods take over.

The number of rods determines how well an animal can see in the dark. Animals like cats have 6-8 times more rods than humans and parrots.

Can Parrots See Infrared Light?

Parrots can’t detect infrared light because its wavelength is too long and the frequency is too low. These invisible lights include X-rays, gamma rays, and microwaves.

Their wavelengths are measured in nanometers. Parrots can’t detect light with a wavelength above 700 nanometers. Infrared light has a wavelength of 780 to 300,000 nanometers.

Are Parrots Color Blind?

As mentioned, parrots have 4 color receptors: green, blue, red, and ultraviolet. They possess more cones in their retinas than humans, meaning they can see more colors.

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

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

However, a parrot’s eyes mostly look at how objects reflect ultraviolet light, meaning they can see each distinct color if it doesn’t emit or reflect ultraviolet light.

What Does Parrot Vision Look Like?

Parrots have eyes on each side of their head and have an expansive view of the world. Just look at any panoramic photograph taken with a wide lens, as this will give you an idea of how much a parrot can see.

As for color, it’s not enough to look up pictures of ultraviolet photographs. Remember, humans can’t detect ultraviolet, so any depiction of the color is guesswork.  

Machines 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 images using specialized tools and 3D modeling. These methods transform the images instead of just placing a filter over them.

Consider their ultra-rapid vision to understand how smoothly a parrot can see movement. You need 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 reach the 120 frames per second that parrots can.

parrot eye pinning meaning

Why Do Parrots Eyes Flash?

You may notice a parrot’s pupils dilating, known as eye pinning or flashing. It’s a form of non-verbal communication commonly seen in African grey parrots, cockatiels, and macaws.

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

  • Angry.
  • Scared.
  • Excited.
  • Curious.

Parrots can control pupil dilation. If the parrot’s eyes are pinning, it’s telling you something important.

Why Do Parrots Eyes Pin?

Eye pinning responds to external stimuli that cause fear, anger, interest, learning, or excitement.

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

This behavior didn’t apply when it made normal parrot sounds, like squawks. Also, it wasn’t observed in non-mimicking parrots. Pupil dilation enables parrots to memorize sounds for communication.

Why Do Parrots Eyes Dilate?

Some parrot species, like budgies (parakeets), use eye pinning to communicate with potential mates. In this situation, it’s courtship behavior that’ll be accompanied by the following:

Parrots can become attracted to humans. If a parrot believes you have accepted its request to be a mate, you could end up frustrating the parrot, leading to behavioral problems.