Science Gazette

More stimulus is required for intelligent parrots

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The results might be applied to other intelligent animals held in captivity.

According to a recent research, the smarter the bird, the more distinct welfare requirements it has in confinement, which helps to explain why many clever birds suffer in captivity. Owners of clever birds should use the results to ensure that they feed them naturalistic meals rather than manufactured ones.

According to a U of G first-ever research, the smarter the bird, the more distinct welfare demands it has in captivity.

According to the study’s principal author, Dr. Georgia Mason, head of the University of Georgia’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, this conclusion might apply to other intelligent confined animals such as great apes, elephants, and whales.

Mason, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, remarked, “This work offers the first concrete proof that intelligent animals may suffer in confinement.”

For the first time, the research found that larger-brained parrots’ ability to acclimatize to confinement is hampered by their higher intellect, which is beneficial in the wild.

Approximately half of the world’s parrots currently reside in private households, zoos, and breeding facilities.

“What’s novel about this work is that it explains why certain species are endangered and others are not.”

The research, which was published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, emphasizes the necessity for cognitive stimulation as well as feeds that demand more complex physical handling in order to enhance bird care.

Heather McDonald, a former University of Georgia PhD student currently working at Mount Sinai Health in Toronto, as well as academics from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, are co-authors.

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The researchers looked at two different data sources.

One was a study of more than 30,000 birds in captivity in the United States in the early 1990s. The researchers also conducted an online poll of over 1,400 pet parrots from 50 different species to look for stereotypic behavior, such as biting at cage bars, chewing or even eating feathers, and swaying, bouncing, or repetitious pacing in cages.

They looked at living circumstances, brain size-body weight ratios (an indicator of intelligence), diets, and other characteristics, and employed a technique that enables evolutionary scientists to isolate hereditary features that put species at danger.

They discovered that animals that consume nuts, seeds, and tough-coated insects in their normal diet are more inclined to pluck, chew, or even eat their feathers. All other kinds of stereotypic behavior were more likely in parrot species with relatively big brains.

This research implies that rather than supplying manufactured meals to domestic birds, owners should maintain naturalistic diets. Foraging accounts for 40 to 75 percent of the time spent by wild parrots.

Mason believes that parrots may have developed the urge to crunch and manipulate their food with their beaks, even when it is pre-processed and served in a bowl, or that they need certain nutrients in their natural diets.

“We have no idea which is more crucial to feather-plucking birds. Like a result, owners should supply realistic food items in their cages so that parrots are forced to break in and undertake extractive foraging as they would in the wild.”

Cockatiels, Jandaya parakeets, and yellow-naped Amazons, for example, are often seen in homes. However, parrots with larger brains, such as Nanday parakeets, monk parakeets, and certain cockatoos, have greater psychological issues.

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“These clever animals are also more invasive,” Mason said, “another reason to handle them with caution.”

The majority of parrots are very gregarious, however they are often kept alone and in repetitive and predictable environments.

“Some species seem to do well in captivity, while others may not be suitable for keeping unless you have a lot of time and ingenuity.”

She believes that owners should give more stimulus for their birds, such as realistic aviaries, puzzles, and other enrichment items.

“This is something that good parrot caregivers already do. If you’re new to parrots, though, choose a species that is likely to flourish. Choose parrots that are appropriate for your environment and lifestyle.”

Approximately half of the world’s estimated 100 million parrots live in captivity, with the majority being kept as pets in private households. More than 40% of species in the wild are vulnerable or near threatened, according to Mason, who spoke with the World Parrot Trust about her new research.

“Having high parrot wellbeing is really essential from a conservation standpoint.”

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