Here is a phenomenal presentation of bird feathers that are not from parrots but are none-the-less spectacular. The behavior accompanying the feathers includes raising the fan tail, strutting around the area, facing the female and then shaking the tail rhythmically to make the dots dance.
Here is some interesting behavior of a male Red Golden Ornamental Pheasant. It was mating season for him and he was interested in both female pheasants that were confined
The use of feathers is emphasized in this male dominated exhibition. Apparently the female pheasant was unimpressed by the display while I watched for more than 30 minutes. After watching them chasing all about the 20X40 arboretum we all were tired and settled down to do other things.
Let’s look at one parrot feather. Since blue is my favorite color we will look at a blue feather. They are so colorful but what is their source of color? There are two possibilities. The color may be intrinsic, based on pigmentation, or it may be the result of structure causing refraction of light. Intrinsic color would be found if the structure of the feather would be examined microscopically using transmitted or incident lighting. The simplest thing to do is to look at the feathers with the microscope.
I made two questions for the observations.
Is the feather one piece or is it made of multiple repeating parts that attach to one another forming one.
What is the source of the color in the feather where it appeared blue on the outer most surface (dorsal side) and yellow on the inner most side (ventral surface)?
I expected that under the microscope the feather might be simply dark grey. If it were blue then the color would be derived from refraction. If it were colorful (polychromatic) then the color would be intrinsic mineral or organic pigment.
To assist in observation, I used a microscope with cell phone camera which was already described in an earlier post. The two lenses used were 4x and 10x. These low power lenses are sufficient to give useful results. Incident and transmitted white light was used for illumination. No polarization was used.
These are paired photos of the same feather showing opposite sides with incident lighting
Note that the barbules and the rachis are darker brown pigment suggesting the presence of melanin pigment and not blue. The apparent blue color is derived mostly from refraction caused by light interacting with the structure of the feather not by pigment. The yellow is most likely derived from a carotenoid pigment. The barbs refract the incident light and thus constitute the majority of the color.
Parrots produce psittacofulvins, a type of red to yellow pigment that’s not found in any other type of vertebrate. These include carotenoids which are yellows and reds, malanoids which are browns and blacks and porphyrins which produce pinks, browns and greens in some birds.* The porphyrins may also fluoresce.** Blue color is the result of iridescence (additive interference), non-iridesence (destructive interference) and defraction. It is not the result of pigmentation. Interference and refraction are physical behaviors of light as it passes through certain media.***
Bird feathers are made of repeating barbed structures that can stick to one another like VelcroTM. The interlocking is very efficient. It is sufficiently strong to withstand the forces of gravity and flight generated by the bird. If some become disengaged they can be physically reconnected through the grooming process of preening. They are resistant to unzipping even when wet. However when wet, the air filled spaces can obviously entrap water. The weight of trapped water may be sufficient to destabilize aerodynamics and probably jeopardize the flight parameters of weight and balance. It is the repeating structural make-up of the feather that bends the light and allows it to fluoresce and at the same time permits flight.
The barbs are colored on the multiple surface areas. Apparently the color in the material contributes to the strength of the vane. Melanin and carotenoids improve the strength. This would suggest that birds with variegated color have strength distribution consistent with the colors. Colors are also helpful in bird identification by people. They are also important in bird-to-bird display for mate selection and for territorial dominance display.
In summary the answer to the color source question is both intrinsic and refracted light. The blue coloration in the feathers here is the result of optical interpretation of pigments and refracted light. The structure and color of the feather are directly related.
We will see the effects of viewing feathers under ultraviolet light in another posting.
We will look at the cormorant like Anhinga as they dive for fish in another posting.
*Cooke et al. Genetic Mapping and Biochemical Basis of Yellow Feather Pigmentation in Budgerigars. Cell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.016
**Cornel lab/bird academy/articles/ how birds make colorful feathers
No. No. No. This is not about Jimmy Buffet music fans. It really is about parrot profile pictures. While wandering about the Everglades Garden here in Bonita Springs Florida I had the opportunity to visit with my friends the parrots. In an omage to them here is a collection of some of their portraits. The birds seem to want to have their photos made. I think that the colors are breathtaking. The combinations of chroma, hue and value are so bold and vivid. The juxtaposition of these colors seems so uninhibited. The mixed patterns of texture with color is unexpected yet perfectly appropriate. We will explore them in greater detail later. Now, I’m simply allowing them to show off in their portraits.
Admittedly two of these are cacatoo but all are approximately the same size. Additionally, I have not included the parakeets or lorikeets. However, I think that this small sample is a good day’s feast for the eyes. Enjoy!
If you have a human living with you, you will understand the title. We parrots, living with the humans, are very clever. We have prehensile claws, can use tools, use logic to extend our adaptation to captivity and are able to communicate including talking in human languages. Humans make ideal pets for the parrots. Humans have prehensile hands, are very clever, can use tools, use logic to extend their adaptation to their environment and can talk. This sounds like a good match. Sometimes the human logic is a bit strange and human’s ability to speak in parrot is poor. Fortunately they can be trained! But they make up their shortcommings in other ways like following commands and bringing food.
Have a look at Floyd, a green Amazon parrot and Nick his pet grey haired human. They have been together for about 40 years. Floyd formerly resided in Michigan and recently moved to California. Since he has forgotten how to fly, he took an airplane to get to his new home. Floyd shares the free range of the house with his humans, eats dinner at the family dining table, and has a girlfriend with whom he currently cohabitates. He eats his own special diet prepared by his private chef (Nick). He visits his doctor on a regular basis to stay in tip-top health. Floyd is very sociable and engages his pet (Nick) in endless hours of conversation where they discuss Michigan State University sports. To entertain Nick, Floyd spontaneously breaks into the MSU song which Nick finds immensely amusing.
Some people are just party animals. It is great to join in the fun!
From a human perspective, a remarkable relationship can be forged with these animals and all of the varieties of this species. In some instances captive parrots are “rescued”. They may have been injured, disabled or simply abandoned. Illegal capture and importation of them to be sold to collectors should be severely punished. Release of non-native species is also illegal and alternative options are available. The best place for these animals is in their wild environments where their diversity and habitats are protected. I highly recommend that you go to the shelters where you can see and visit with them as well as support their maintenance. The Wonder Gardens and the Naples Zoo are two great places for this.
In subsequent postings we will see more varieties and colors of these birds.
#parrots #parrots and humans #Wonder Garden #Naples Zoo #Floyd and Nick
Some of my favorite birds are parrots. They are remarkably colorful and intelligent. Their behavior in the wild is wonderful to watch and to hear. In captivity their behavior makes them interesting playmates that can learn to sing and speak. This blog is an introduction to an extended discussion on parrots and later, other bird species. I would like to introduce some of them to you. This may help you to understand the birds in Florida.
While in Central America I watched flocks of parrots raucously flying through the rain forests of the Osa Peninsula, National Conservancy of Costa Rica and in ruins of the Mayan city of Tikal in Honduras. I watched them fly through the forests and among the Mayan pyramids. They typically inhabit climates that are warm or temperate to tropical. I have even seen non-indigenous green parrots flying between the buildings of South Miami Beach here in Florida. Characteristics to look for include hooked beaks and two pair of opposing toes in each of their claws (zygodactyl feet). These two types of invasive birds are Monk parakeets and the Red Crowned Amazon. The only native to Florida is now extinct.
The various types of parrots include:
Parrots (Psittaciformes)- a generic term usually applied to a variety birds of three families; Strigopoidea, Psittacoidea and Cacatuoidea. These comprise:
Macaw – a large bird long living bird with rainbow color feathers
Amazon – a large, usually green body with yellow head and crest
Lorikeet – small to medium size similar to parakeet but longer tail and more colorful plumage
Parakeet – a small bird frequently kept as domestic pets with a variety of pastel colors
Cocatoo – a medium size bird with prominent crests and curved bills, less colorful than that of other parrots, often with colored accents in the crest, cheeks or tail.
Budgerigar – a member of the Lori family with green, yellow and black coloration
Parrots are noted for their longevity and in captivity may live for 80 years. They are remarkably intelligent with large vocabularies* and apparent logical skills. They are able to use tools and to solve problems**.
* Péron F, Rat-Fischer L, Lalot M, Nagle L, Bovet D. Cooperative problem solving in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Anim Cogn. 2011 Jul;14(4):545-53. doi: 10.1007/s10071-011-0389-2. Epub 2011 Mar 8. PMID: 21384141.
Yes. Vanilla is a member if the orchid family. Vanilla flavor is a very popular ingredient added to foods. Perhaps as much as 98% of this flavor is made artificially and is called vanillin. This is because of the great labor expense to cultivate, harvest and process the vanilla bean (pod) and seeds. It starts out as a fertilized flower which develops a pod filled with seeds. The fertilization was done by insects especially bees when originally found in Madagascar. Today however, the favored bee is either in such diminished numbers or may be extinct in some areas that the flowers are never pollinated. Much of the natural product that we have in the USA comes from Mexico. To produce the bean, human intervention is therefore necessary to carry out the insemination process.
The plants are interesting because they start out rooted in the soil and then embrace a tree or trellace to gain height in their search for sunlight and nutrients. I found two sources of vanilla plants in my exploration of SWFL. One is at the Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs FL and a group are at the Edison and Ford Winter Estate in Fort Myers FL.
The plant in The Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs FL is very similar or identical to the plant captioned above. In fact is may be a sibling. I was surprised to see that the plant at the Wonder Garden was no longer attached to the soil and was therefore a true air plant like a typical orchid.
In another blog we can see various forms of orchids which are not typical of the florid plants that we appreciate so much.
Orchids are some of my favorite plants because their flowers are very beautiful and they are easy to grow here in South West Florida. This blog is a brief introduction to for a hobbyist to grow in their home or in their garden.
These are favorite delights in my garden, the Wonder Garden as well as The Edison and Ford Winter garden.
During my exploration of SWFL I found other orchids that were fascinating. Below you will see some interesting samples of orchids. These include pitcher plants, vanilla, lady slipper, phaleanopsis, cattleyela and dendrobium. There are thousands of orchid varieties in a rainbow of colors,
The plants showed here are a small part of the orchid family. Check out some information about The pitcher plant and Venus fly trap at carnivorous plants.
Check put the numerous references for help in identifying and caring for orchids. I do have some recommendations for out-of-door orchid care in Florida.
Grow in moderate, not direct sunlight.
Water when the air roots are dry. This is usually every three days if there is no rain.
After they loose the flowers, cut back the blossom stem just above the node nearest to the base.
Cutoff any the portion of any leaf with black mould.
Spray with insecticide plant soap every two weeks.
Fertilize once every two to four weeks with 20-14-30
Here is a reference for carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant and the Venus fly trap: Carnivorous plants
One of the most frequent behaviors of the Flamingos is preening their feathers. This is most often done in the morning and mid day hours. During this time they are often on the shallow area of the Flamingo Lagoon where they are less disturbed by the guests and the wild birds visiting the area. One of the native species that shares the deeper waters of the Lagoon is the Blue Heron. The activities and interactions between the two birds is quite different. The Flamingo is habituated to the Gardens area. It doesn’t fly and is fed on a routine basis. Its behavior is quite placid and its social activities are limited to the other flamingos of the group of four. The Great Blue Herron is solitary and independent of the Gardens. It flies in and out at will. The two species do not interact with one another despite their near equal size and proximity. Their feeding habits are very different and their beak shape reflects this. The flamingo is a bottom feeder and filters the food from the bottom of the shallows and from the surface of the soil. The Herron feeds by hunting for small prey and, with its rapier like bill, plucks its prey as live, individual pieces, usually insects and fish.
This wading Flamingo image is one of my favorites. The subtleties of color in the plumage just ask for looking. The color of the feathers are maintained by diet control. This observation is from the Epicollect5 observation #21.
The blue was just a lucky opportunity for observation. It ‘s grey blue coloration is the source of its name. He just flew in and began prowling the shallow greens for lunch. Here he picked his head up and extended his neck so that the meal he caught would pass easier down its long slim throat. I wonder if he isn’t the prototype for the Sesame Street character, “Big Bird”
#Flamingo #Great Blue Herron #wading birds #feathers #birds
This is the last of the current blog series on the possible life in the reefs of the future in South West Florida. The images show the night photographs using fluorescent illumination. Using this technique, the color of the coral otherwise unseen to human vision becomes apparent. With this technology the coral reefs appear to be bejeweled and on fire with color from every aspect of the rainbow. The formations shown here are only a small sample of a much larger chaotic jumble of shapes, sizes and colors.
I hope that you enjoyed the pictures. Please support the efforts to build coral reefs in the Gulf waters surrounding the SWFL.
#marine life #reef #fluorescent #night dive #coral