Reflections on Parrot Behaviour

Parrot Behaviour

Reflections on Parrot Behaviour

Parrot BehaviourWhen we look in the mirror, we know who looks back. Children learn that a mirror image is not a real person by the age of two. It takes them another year or so to recognise their reflection as themselves. Humans take this ability for granted, but it is in fact quite rare in the animal kingdom. So, what does your pet bird see in the mirror?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

The vast majority of animals will respond to a mirror as though it is another animal, at least at first. Some will attack their reflection, which of course fights back. Many birds fall in this category. Others will try to make friends and may even court the mirror image.

Most animals will soon realise that the reflection is not real. In experiments with African Grey parrots, the birds will at first try to talk to the mirror, but give up when it doesn’t respond. They then start to look behind the mirror; some of us have seen cats do the same. The image has no scent and makes no sound, reducing its credibility.

An animal needs to have a certain sense of self before it can recognise itself. Researchers test this by applying a mark to the animal in a place that is only visible in a mirror. The animal is unaware of the marking process. When it sees itself in the mirror, a self-aware animal will immediately touch the mark on its own body. Think of it as that moment in the bathroom when you spot the cappuccino foam on your nose.

The only mammals, other than humans, that can do this are the great apes, elephants and dolphins. Monkeys do not recognise themselves. In the bird world, some members of the crow family show self-recognition. A magpie will remove a coloured sticker from its body when it spots the offending mark in the mirror, and so will pigeons. However, most birds, including parrots, don’t show this behaviour.

Smoke and Mirrors

Dr Irene Pepperberg has spent a lifetime working with African Grey parrots. She studies learning and language as part of the Harvard Animal Studies Project. Experiments in her laboratory looked at mirror use in parrots, with intriguing results.

The researchers placed either a treat or a scary object in a small box. The open side of the box faced a mirror. Alo and Kyaaro, both African Grey parrots, took turns to approach the box from behind. The birds were quick to check the reflection in the mirror; and if the mirror showed a scary object in the box, they retreated, but if they spotted a treat, they retrieved it. Neither parrot ever mistook the reflection for the real thing – they looked at the reflection, but went straight for the hidden treat inside the box.

In a second set of experiments, the researchers used a series of up to four boxes. They placed a treat in one of these. Alo and Kyaaro couldn’t see into the boxes, but they could view the contents in a mirror angled near the boxes. The birds were able to use the mirror to identify the correct box, containing a treat. Without a mirror, they couldn’t find the right box.

This research shows that birds can use mirrors to solve problems. They somehow know that the reflection represents the real world. At the same time, one wonders how they explain the aloof but handsome stranger in the mirror.

Budgerigars and Mirrors

Budgerigars are not able to recognise themselves in a mirror. Not only do they seem to think the mirror is another bird, they also want to get to know it better. Budgies may even prefer a mirror to a real bird. Experiments have shown that, far from familiarity breeding contempt, this affection increases over time.

Before cutting screen time for your pet, take heart in some positive effects of mirrors. Researchers at Saint Joseph’s University put mirrors with colonies of budgies. Birds who spent more time with their reflection also had stronger bonds with their mates. It seems that these individuals are more gregarious in general. For them, a mirror is good company when their mate is not in the mood.

The intelligence of birds is well recognised. Pet birds often become bored, especially when housed alone. Cage enrichment by providing toys, including mirrors, is an excellent way to provide stimulation and in some cases may help prevent abnormal behaviour such as feather plucking. Mirrors may be even more effective with added sound, such as a bell.

We may never know what our feathered friends are thinking as they look in the mirror.
You are the fairest of them all, perhaps?

With thanks to LoveMyVouchers.co.uk for this revealing look into how birds and other members of the animal kingdom react to mirrors.

To equip your bird cage with mirrors and keep your pet parrot enriches visit www.ParrotEssentials.co.uk/Mirrors

How to Make Friends with your Parrot

How to make friends with your parrot

How to make friends with your parrotIn this article Barbara covers the topic of How to Make Friends with your Parrot.

If you are a fan of parrots like me, you look forward to those moments when you get to make a new parrot friend. Unlike a dog or cat that may respond to a new person right away, birds can sometimes require a little extra effort on our part. Birds are often a bit nervous about meeting a stranger. Here are some things you can do to help them to be more comfortable when you are getting to know them.

How to Make Friends with your Parrot

1. Give the bird space: Although it is very tempting try not to go right up to a bird. Give him some time to get used to you being in the same room. Once he is looking relaxed and comfortable you can move a bit closer to the bird.

2. Move slowly: Birds can become frightened when people move too quickly. You don’t want to scare your soon-to-be new friend.

3. Approach from the front: Be sure to approach the parrot so that he can easily see you coming. Many birds don’t like it when someone is moving behind them.

4. Show him something special: Before walking closer to a parrot, it is a good idea to have some treats, parrot toys or other special item with you. Ask people who know the bird what he likes best. You can show the bird what you have to give him before you get too close.

5. Watch his body language: When you show the parrot the special treat or item you have for him, watch how the bird responds. If he leans towards you he is saying he would very much like to accept your gift. If he leans away he might be saying he is not sure he is ready to make friends right now. If he is not ready, you can always try again later.

6. Offer him the special treat: If the parrot leans forward and reaches his beak towards what you have to offer, you can move closer and give him what you have. Whenever you offer a treat or toy to a parrot for the first time try to present it so that the bird has to lean forward to take it with his beak. This way you don’t have to get too close to the bird’s beak. This is so you can be extra sure the bird is ready for the treat. Sometimes when we get too close or offer the item to fast, a bird might respond by biting.

7. Offer more treats: If the parrot takes the first treat or toy and enjoys it. He might look or lean towards you for another one. If he does, that is an invitation to really start getting to know each other. Continue to offer him special treats or items. This will cause your new parrot friend to really look forward to your visits.

Once a parrot understands good things happen when you visit, you will begin to notice he will really want to get to know you better. He might be eager to step onto your hand. He might even talk or sing to see if he can encourage you to come closer with a special treat. If he feels very comfortable with you, he might even let you stroke the feathers on his head. This is a good sign that you were very careful not to scare him and have done a good job earning his trust.

Making friends with a parrot sometimes takes a little extra effort. But it is a very special compliment when a parrot accepts you as a friend. Pay close attention to your actions when you are meeting a parrot for the first time, offer him yummy treats and fun toys. Soon you will find yourself surrounded by many new feathered friends.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos.

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc
Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com

CITES upgrades African Grey Parrots to Appendix I

African Grey Parrots

African Grey Parrots’ status was upgraded to “Appendix I”.

African Grey Parrots FeedingIn a meeting held in Johannesburg in September 2016, the U.N.s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has banned the global trade in wild African Grey Parrots. The species is highly prized as pet for its ability to imitate human speech all over the worlds. The legal and illegal trade of African Grey Parrots has led to a decline of almost 90% in population over the last two decades. The decisions to place the species in “Appendix I” was taken on the first ever secret ballot of CITES members, during the two-week long convention. This decision is non-binding for the domestic markets of birds as CITES only regulates international trade in wild flora and fauna.

Inclusion in “Appendix I” is in the best interests of the conservation of the species as it faces both habitat loss and rampant illegal and unsustainable trade for the international pet trade, said vice president and head of the Wildlife Conservation Society delegation Susan Lieberman.

African Greys, usually bred in captivity and sold as pets were first listed on “Appendix II” in 1981, which includes species which trade must be limited.

Loss of habitat, poor regulation of trade and increased trafficking for the pet industry are the main reasons for the decline of these magnificent birds.

Breeding and trading of African Grey Parrots in captivity could continue under the guidelines of the convention, which regulates trade in more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.

Image source: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/

 

 

African Grey Parrots need our help to survive.

African Grey Parrots

African Grey Parrots PetitionAfrican Grey Parrots are almost extinct and have become a rare site in the wild. In the past 40 years over 1.3 million Grey Parrots have been legally exported. Many of the birds are poorly treated and die before export, as a result, the true number of parrots take from the wild is estimated at well over 3 million. Shocking!

Recent study in Ghana shows that the African Grey Parrots’ population has declined by 90 – 99% in recent years. Falling number are driving trappers to move into ever more remote areas to find parrots to catch.

SIGN THE PETITION NOW

Despite collapses in numbers, much of this trade remains legal.

African Grey ParrotsA number of African countries have recognised the crises and are making efforts to give the African Grey Parrots maximum protection under international law.

Later this year at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) from around the world will meet in Johannesburg, South Africa. At this conference the parties will decide how wildlife can – and can’t – be traded around the world. Alongside Elephants, Rhinos and Lions, the fate of another iconic African species – The African Grey Parrots – will be decided.

World Parrot Trust will be in attendance at the meeting to support the process; by signing the petition you will add your voice to their support efforts.

Now is the time to ACT and stop the export of African Grey Parrots forever.  The message to CITES is: Move the Grey Parrot to Appendix I and end the trade in wild birds of this Globally Threatened Species.

SIGN THE PETITION NOW

Thanking you in advance for supporting this cause.
The team at Parrot Essentials.

 

African Grey Parrots Disappearing

African Grey

Numbers of African Grey parrots is in decline according to the National Geographic due to lost of natural habitat and high demands by the pet trade.

Even though the United States and European Union have forbidden African Grey imports, captive-bred trading remains present.

African Greys in the wild
African Greys in the wild

National Geographic explains that according to the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) the population of African Grey parrots continues to decline.

Once a common site in the deep forests of West and Central Africa it is almost impossible to spot African Greys in the wild today. The Avian Journal Ibis recently published a study revealing that these birds have almost disappeared from Ghana, a country where they once flourished.

According to CITES, African Grey parrots still remain the single most imported bird for the pet trade and since 1980 there have been 800,000 legally imported parrots. This number does not account for the total number of parrots taken from the forest.  Because of this fact  CITES has delivered a proposal to finally stop trading of wild-caught parrots.

African Grey parrots are particularly susceptible to death in captivity and it is estimated that 45% – 65% died prior to reaching the export markets.

Further more by destroying their natural habitat and especially by removing large trees where the species nests and breeds humans are slowing the recovery process of the African Grey parrot.

Sources:
National Geographic, Ibis, CITES