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King parrot head:
Scarlet red.
Male, tummy too.
Wings: different hue,
Blue and green.
Beak, orange sheen.
Pupil black, iris
With yellow bias.
Tootsies grey
Little more to say.

You can use this  part of the book to…

  • talk about parrots
  • talk about parts of organisms
  • colors in the spectrum
  • check for color blindness (see Consider below).

Parrots:

  • There are about 400 kinds (species) of parrots
  • They have a distinctive curved beak (meat eaters like eagles and owls also have hooked beaks to tear at meat)
  • Flick through to find pictures of owls, another parrot, and other birds.  Check out their beaks, especially the black crow or the gray heron who have beaks of a different shape. Looking at beaks may give you clues as to what that bird eats.
    • Which birds have hooked beaks?
  • Parrots are among the most colorful birdscheck out macaws
    • Can you find another bird in this book that is very colorful?
  • The feet of parrots are not like most birds. Most other birds have three toes that point forwards, and one pointing backwards. There is a good example of the 3+1 arrangement in the book, can you find it? Parrots have two toes pointing forwards and two backwards.  This helps them to grip onto branches, or onto fruit or a nut when they are having a meal.
  • King parrots are native to Australia. 
  • Most parrots eat fruit and nuts, and live in warm countries among bushes and trees that provide them with food
  • Parrots live in groups, parents pair up for life, they are intelligent and adapt easily to new circumstances. As a consequence they can make good pets. 

Why are king parrots so brightly colored?

There are at least two benefits of being brightly colored. 

Firstly it is to show off.  The male is much more brightly colored – Females and the young do not have as much red The males that can most impress the ladies are the ones chosen to help raise a family.  Do boys try to attract girls: yes (they like fancy toys and cars, bully others to show how strong they are, play loud music to draw  attention to themselves).   What do girls do to attract boys?

Secondly, the parrots might use these colors to hide.  You may not think that bright colors are a good idea, but tomorrow, if the sun is out, let’s find out what colors we can see in a tree.  First, there will be some very bright patches where we can see the sky.  If sunlight falls onto a leaf it will look bright, but in shadows the leaves will look more somber (darker and less colorful).  Branches and dead leaves add brown colors. Some parts of the tree may even look black.  There will be many different shapes, lines made by branches and curved shapes of leaves.  The tree has many different shapes and colors.   

Now, imagine there is a King Parrot in there.  We will not see the whole parrot, because some parts will be hidden behind leaves and branches.  When we cannot see some parts , it is much harder for our brains to know that our eyes are looking at a bird.  You can show that we need to see much of the shape with a game.  Use a book with pictures of cats and dogs. Hide  most of the picture  so that only the tip of the tail can be seen. Is it a cat or a dog?  It will become easier to recognize the type of animal when more of it can be seen.    When we cannot see some parts of the shape, it is much harder for our brains to know that our eyes are looking at a bird.   Not only are some parts hidden, the greens of the king parrot merge with the vegetation, and are less easy to see.  The red colors blend  with the brown parts of the the tree.  This adds more visual confusion.   The use of colors to blend in with the background  is a type of camouflage.   Most birds can be hard to see when they are in trees. Bird watchers often know that a type of bird is present not because  they see the bird, but because they hear its characteristic song. Bird watching is a lot about bird hearing.  

Red panda

Red panda of Chinese Himalayas
Not a panda, more like bears.

Red pandas come from China, India and Nepal.  There are not many, and they may not survive for much longer in the wild.   Like the black and white ‘giant panda’, red pandas can eat bamboo shoots. But they also eat other things, including eggs, insects, berries and small animals.  In this way, they are similar to bears and raccoons – which are their closest relatives.  The reddish brown colors, especially with the patches, makes this guy harder to see when he is on the ground. 

Red/brown fungus

Three mushrooms, upright fellas
Carrying fancy red umbrellas.

These small, reddy / brown mushrooms are, like all mushrooms, parts of a fungus that is much bigger than what you see above ground. Most of the fungus lives as a network of fine threads under the surface of the soil. The threads (hyphae) collect food, often wrapping around and inside the roots of plants.  The association between the fungus and the tree is important to the health of the plant.

The part of a fungus that sticks up is also called a toadstool.  They look  a bit like umbrellas. The top part is the ‘cap’.  Spores develop on the under surface of the caps, and drop off,  or are knocked off, or blown away … hopefully landing somewhere where they can start to grow and develop into a new fungus.

We eat some mushrooms, but many types are poisonous. So, if you see any in nature, do not try to eat them. 

If you want to hunt for mushrooms, look for them in woods and forests after damp weather.

Bottle brush flower with bagworm case

A bottle brush flower
Whose scarlet tower
Gives shade to a log cabin
Its bag worm huddled within.

The bottle brush (Callistemon) has flowers with scarlet-red sticky-out spikes that carry pollen. The flowers look like a special kind of brush that you can get to clean out bottles.  That is where they get their name from.  The double flower is not usual.

The very bright red color, with the golden highlights of pollen, make the flower very visible to insects and birds.  As a result, they are more likely to visit the flower to find nectar or to collect the pollen.  When they move around, the animals  dislodge some pollen which can stick to the visitor and be carried to other flowers. There, they may start the formation of seeds.   So, a bit like the bright colors of the parrots,  the bright colors of these flowers help the organism produce the next generation.

Look carefully, on a leaf on the left hand side, there is a tiny log cabin.  It is made by the larva of a bagworm moth –  she or he is inside.  The cabin will move around until the larva decides it is time to transform into a moth.

Consider asking ….

  • How many other birds or fungi or flowers or mammals are in this book?  This will help a kid suggest  why an organism is (identified as) a bird or  fungus or etc.  What  features do all birds share. Is it having eyes, or beaks, or wings, or feathers. Are they the only organisms to have that feature?  What the features are found ONLY in birds (that should take you to feathers, maybe beaks but you’ll end up having to explain duck-billed platypuses and octopuses).  With younger kids, you can help the process by drawing out a cartoon of a bird, and marking eyes, legs, beak, feathers, wings, tail, and so on.  Perhaps add colors.  Use it as a kind of checklist to explain how legs are not only found in birds, we have them too – but ours are different.  Or that not all birds are red. Maybe the feature will be ‘flight’, or ‘eggs’, or things that are not in the pictures.
  •  How many organisms have red bits?  Children can be invited to flick through the book looking for anything that has any red color (but remember you may have to ask them about what is red, or orangey red, or reddy orange and so on).  It will help to make this less open ended (can you find 4 other things that have a red part); and when they are ready, ask them to say what it is.
  • How do you know if something is red? There is no clear answer.  Turn to the ‘spectrum’ page to show that colors grade from one to another.  There is no sharp distinction between red and non-red. There are lots of reddish options.  Often organisms that are not red, but more red than others, will be called ‘red’.  Examples are the red panda above, but also the red fox, red deer, red squirrel, and the red howler monkey.
  • Can you see all colors?  Remember that some children will be color blind.  Use this opportunity to check if they can see the colors the same way as you do – perhaps when asked, they pick the wrong name.  The Ultraviolet page has a spotty diagram that can be used to check on color blindness.   It shows a dog using orangey/yellow dots.  People who are red-green color blind will not be able to work out what is in the picture.  There are many different kinds of color blindness, although red/green is the most common in boys. There are plenty on line sites, such as here, where you can try different tests.

If you have more ideas, please let us know below.

Nature Reader colors web red

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