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UV Sensitivity in Parrots and UV Protection for People – A Relationship?

Crimson RosellaWe’ve known for some time now that the eyes of Budgerigars and African Gray Parrots are UV-sensitive and can detect UV light.  Humans cannot, but like parrots we are active by day and exposed to UV light throughout our lives.  In many cases, parrot and human life-spans are similar in length, yet, in contrast ourselves, our avian friends’ eyes do not suffer UV damage.  A study at the University of West Australia is seeking to find out why.

UV Light and Bird Behavior

UV light is very important to Budgerigars…with the aid of UV sensitive eyes, they see the world differently than we do.  In fact, the glow a male’s feathers takes on in the presence of UV light influences his suitability as a mate in the eyes of females.

Other birds utilize UV light as well – the nestlings of some finches sport beak flanges that reflect UV, thereby helping parents to deliver food in dark nest hollows.

New Findings and Future Work

University of West Australia ornithologists suspected that other parrots may be UV sensitive as well.  Writing in a recent (August, 2010) issue of The Proceedings of the Royal Society, they report that the Kea and all 13 species of Macaws, Rosellas, Amazons and Cockatoos that were tested did indeed sense UV light.

Bold KeaAs parrot eyes are somewhat similar to our own, it is hoped that further study will “shed some light” on the prevention of UV damage in human eyes.  This is particularly important today, when it appears that increased UV radiation is reaching the earth.

Research of this nature illustrates the importance of preserving each and every animal and plant species, if for no other reason (but there are many, of course!) than for as yet undiscovered medical value that so many may have.  Considering that at least one third of the world’s parrots are threatened with extinction, and that numerous others are quite rare, this is a lesson we cannot afford to ignore. 

Further Reading

Please see the following articles for information on providing the proper lighting to pet birds and the role of UV light in bird health:

Color Vision in Birds – Improving our Pet’s Quality of Life

Flashy Finch Chicks

The Avian Eye


Crimson Rosella images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Noodle Snacks
Kea images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Peti Deuxmont

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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