WEDNESDAY, October 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Committing to a bird is no small decision. And that’s an even bigger commitment if you choose a bird like a parrot or a parakeet that is intelligent by nature.
Smarter birds have a greater need to stay healthy and happy in captivity, according to researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
“This study provides the first empirical evidence that intelligent animals can wrestle in captivity,” said co-author Dr Georgia Mason, director of the Campbell Center for the Study of Animal Welfare.
About half of the world’s 100 million parrots now live in homes, zoos, and breeding facilities. In the wild, more than 40% of parrot species are threatened or near threatened, said Mason, who discussed his new study with the World Parrot Trust.
The results could apply to other intelligent captive creatures, including apes, elephants and whales, Mason said.
While some birds, such as cockatiels, Jandaya parakeets, and yellow-naped amazons generally thrive in home environments, relatively large-brained parrots such as Nanday parakeets, monk parakeets, and some cockatoos suffer more from psychological problems. , according to the researchers.
âThese intelligent species are also more invasive – another reason to treat them with special care,â Mason said.
For the study, the researchers looked at two main data sources. One was a 1990s captive breeding success survey that included 30,000 birds in the United States.
They also conducted an online behavior survey involving nearly 1,400 pet parrots representing 50 species. He looked for expected behavior as well as abnormal activity such as biting cage bars, chewing or even eating feathers, as well as swinging, bouncing or pacing in cages.
The researchers also looked at the birds’ housing conditions and diets and compared their body size to their brain size – a relationship that may be a marker of intelligence. They then highlighted the inherited traits that predispose species to risk.
They found that species whose natural diets included nuts, seeds, and hard-coated insects were more likely to pluck, chew, or even eat their feathers. Parrot species with larger brains were particularly at risk for this behavior.
The results suggest that bird owners should provide natural diets rather than processed foods. Wild parrots normally spend around 40-75% of their time foraging for food.
Mason said parrots may have an evolving need to munch and manipulate food with their beaks, even when they are processed and presented in a bowl. Or, they may need special nutrients in natural diets.
âWe don’t know what is most important to plucked birds. So ideally owners should provide intact naturalistic food so the parrots really have to navigate their way and foraging as they see fit. do in nature, âMason said. .
She also suggested that the owners provide more mental stimulation to the birds. This could include naturalistic aviaries as well as puzzles and other enrichment items. Most parrots are very sociable but are often housed alone and sometimes in monotonous and predictable conditions.
âGood parrot keepers already do this. But if you’re new to parrots, choose a species that is likely to thrive. Don’t choose parrots that don’t suit your location and lifestyle,â Mason said.
The results were published on October 6 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The World Parrot Trust has more on parrots.
SOURCE: University of Guelph, press release, October 5, 2021