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Parrot Color – parrots are found to have a novel method of acquiring their brilliant red feathers

African Grey Parrot
Over 80% of the world’s parrot species have some degree of red coloration, the intensity of which is only rarely found among other bird families. While most birds acquire their red coloration through carotenoids (naturally occurring compounds) ingested along with food, researchers at Arizona State University have shown that parrots utilize a previously unknown system.

Parrots manufacture red pigment internally. This pigment, a suite of 5 molecules, is found in all red-colored parrots, but, as far as we know, nowhere else on earth. Also unusual is the fact that the pigment seems to be synthesized at the site of each growing feather, and that it has anti-oxidant properties as well. This finding has very important implications for ornithologists, as it points to a very unique evolutionary history among parrots and their relatives (of course, parrot owners have long known how different parrots are from other birds!).

Once again, studies of a species’ natural history have given pet owners important insights as well. Pigment production is a drain on the parrot’s metabolism, and a vitally important process given its anti-oxidant properties. It is, therefore, vital that pet owners provide their parrots with a nutritious diet and proper care.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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