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T. Tully1
1Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Baton Rouge- Louisiana, USA
Thomas N. Tully, Jr., DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian), ECZM (Avian)
Louisiana State University – School of Veterinary Medicine
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Email:
It is important to know that parrots and cockatoos form the order Psittiformes. There are approximately 350 species and 74 genera of this large and distinct avian order. Parrot behavior, for the most part is based on a flock mentality. There is interaction with other birds for nest sites, mates, and the reuse of nest sites if there was successful production the year before. This interaction can expand to feeding the young. It has been noted that there are significant behavior differences in Amazona spp. when feeding their young. Some island species
of Amazona feed their young 4 – 5 times a day while mainland species may only feed their young twice a day. Such a difference of feeding the young by parrot species of the same genus may be a learned behavior due to the quality and quantity of food available within their environment.
The sensory perception by most if not all parrots is very keen and important for survival since these are prey species. With most avian species males showed a higher frequency of aggressive behavior. Of course there were a few exceptions but this is the case with many other avian orders. Again through field observation the avian social status is significantly influenced by size age and gender. It has been speculated that pair bonding increases social status of psittacine birds within a group, but has yet to be scientifically validated. Avian species in the wild have developed complex ritualized postural displays to help solve disputes between birds. Allofeeding, allopreening, and pair bonding are all examples of social interaction
of parrot species in the wild. Often the natural diets of parrots are related to appearance, taste, and sensory stimulation. Considerations for selecting an avian diet
in order to have a positive effect on its behavior is for one to have knowledge of specific appetites for effective supplementation, maximize food palatability and feed
acceptance, and enrichment. It is up to the owner to regularly evaluate their animal(s) eating habits.
Sleep is often overlooked by pet owners and veterinarians alike as an important condition to
maintain and promote excellent avian behavior. In
birds, slow wave sleep (SWS) is most important for restorative functions. Paradoxical sleep (PS)/rapid eye movement (REM) is suspect to be associated with brain development and learning. Paradoxical sleep always preceded by slow wave sleep in birds studied. In birds that are missing sleep spindles, these are involved in burst of activity that are believed to decrease sensitivity to sensory input. Most orders of birds, as with marine mammals have unihemispheric sleep including half-moon conures. Sleep is the single behavior that occupies the greatest proportion of a parrot’s day, based on scientific studies. In rat pups it was shown that even brief periods of maternal separation, > 3 hours during the first weeks of life results in long lasting changes in responsiveness
to stress and reactivity to novelty. Therefore, hand- rearing parrots deprive the birds from parental contact
to establish normal social preferences and normal
sexual preference. Scientific investigations have shown that when hand rearing parrots this affects males more severely than females. It appears with captive raised psittacine species that hand raised birds had a stronger presence to humans rather than conspecifics. Also
there is a tendency for hand raised parrots to develop neophobia. With a perceived behavior problem, the question must be asked if it is truly a behavior problem
or a manifestation of normal behavior for that particular parrot species. Parrots are naturally loud, independent, and monogamous which is in direct conflict with desired pet behavior. Companion avian owners should be educated on the birds they own and practice operant behavior techniques. Operant behavior techniques
are where the bird behaves in a manner desirable to
the owner. With operant behavior, the owner must understand that adverse behavior is directly influenced by the event before and after the unwanted behavior occurs. Behaviors are reflexive and learned, reinforced and are influenced by both positive and negative reinforcement. Punishment is an ineffective training method because the animal is in control to respond and if it does not respond favorably then is subjected to, in many cases, increased degrees of punishment.
An Urban Experience

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