The curious case of blushing macaws —

Blushing Macaws (Pix-journal.pone - Photographic representation of the position of crown, nape and cheek feathers. (All photographs taken by A. Beraud)

Blushing Macaws (Pix-journal.pone – Photographic representation of the position of crown, nape and cheek feathers. (All photographs taken by A. Beraud)

Ever heard of macaws that blush, much like humans at an emotional moment? Researchers still don’t quite understand how it works, but a French team says they have observed the phenomenon multiple times in a group of five captive blue-and-yellow macaws. 

They published their findings on 22 August 2018 in the journal ‘PLOS One’. 

Blue-and-yellow macaws have a part of their cheeks that is naked, uncovered by feathers, and researchers noticed that this fair skin would redden during interactions with their handlers. “Birds don’t have muscles in their faces,” explained lead researcher Aline Bertin of INRA. 

Anecdotally, people who took care of macaws noticed them blushing, their cheeks reddening with increased blood flow, much like in humans. But they still needed to document the phenomenon. 

So they set up an experiment to film and photograph the birds on perches during organised interactions with their habitual human handlers, such as talking and looking at them. They saw the birds’ skin reddened around the eyes during these encounters. 

“But we don’t know if these birds can feel positive emotions,” said Bertin. (AFP)

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