“..vast parrots as red as new carrots..”*

Growing up in England, birds were not my thing. There is a reason that I first got interested in birds in Africa. A lot of them are brightly colored, and in the dry season the trees drop their leaves and the birds are visible.

This is a male African Orange-bellied Parrot, Poicephalus rufiventris:

The orange continues under his wings:

Even his eyes are orange and the underside of his tail is bright green:

The female lacks the orange belly, but she still has the green belly feathers.

Another orange and green bird is the tiny Fischer’s Lovebird:

Orange, but no green this time, is the Red-and-Yellow Barbet (not a parrot, but just as brightly colored):

There are two in this shot:

Even the misleadingly named Brown (or Meyer’s) Parrot is dazzling when seen from below. These two in Tanzania are feasting on baobab flowers.

It is all much more exciting than the world of Little Brown Jobs, or LBJ’s, as birders rudely call the dowdier birds of temperate climes.

*PS My title is a quote from Edward Lear, of limerick fame, who was also an accomplished artist whose parrot paintings rivaled Audubon’s. He drew them from life at London Zoo, and wrote a letter to a friend including this poem, which I recommend reading aloud for the full rhythmic effect:

“Now I go to my dinner,
For all day I’ve been a-
way at the West End,
Painting the best end 
Of some vast Parrots
As red as new carrots,—
(They are at the museum,—
When you come you shall see ‘em,—)
I do the head and neck first;
—And ever since breakfast,
I’ve had one bun merely!
So—yours quite sincerely.”

As far as I can tell, he didn’t paint any of the specific parrots in this blog, but here is one of his scarlet macaw, now in the Houghton Library at Harvard.,

2 thoughts on ““..vast parrots as red as new carrots..”*”

  1. I wonder if the parrots imitate all the wild animal sounds!? The Red and Yellow Barber is quite pretty. That’s a gorgeous painting by Edward Lear…he was a very talented man. I memorized ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat” in 4th grade, such a fabulous poem… (and still know most of it). Jan Brett illustrated the book form with her exquisite artwork.


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