Blue-and-yellow macaws are capable of blushing, research shows in the journal PLOS ONE.
Feathers mostly cover a parrot’s cheeks, so we can’t always see when parrots are blushing. It’s commonly seen in macaws because they have larger areas of bare white skin on their cheeks.
Parrots blush due to excitement, anger, playfulness, sexual maturity, and feeling threatened.
To zero in on why macaw faces flush, a group of scientists led by ethologist Aline Bertin of the University of Tours in France studied five captive blue-and-yellow macaws as they interacted with each other and their human caretakers.
The researchers were amazed to see that human attention seemed to prompt blushing in these brightly plumed birds, reports Jessica Boddy at Gizmodo. The blushing died down, however, when the caretakers whom the macaws interacted with on a regular basis turned their backs and ignored the parrots. Social contact with humans and other birds also increased the birds’ propensity to ruffle the feathers on the tops of their heads.
Just like facial expressions can be indicative of a human’s emotional state, bird blushing could convey well-being, the researchers say. It’s a subtler form of expression than, say, smiling as humans do, but it’s actually fairly impressive considering these macaws aren’t equipped with the same facial muscles we are, as reported by Forbes. And their intelligence and capacity for affection make them far less prickly than they may look.
The results proved that blushing is a form of communication many parrots adopt to convey their emotions.
PLOS ONE: “Facial display and blushing: Means of visual communication in blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara Ararauna)?”