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

Budgie (Budgerigar) – Profile & Care Guide

Common name: BUDGERIGAR (Budgie)
Latin name: Melopsittacus undulates
Length: 18-20 cm (7-7.8 in)
Weight: 22 – 32 gr (0.8-1.1 oz)
Life Span: 6 – 18 years
Origin: Central and Southern Australia
Noise Level: Quiet warbling to sharp chattering, quiet screech
Buy: Food, Toys, Cages & Accessories suitable for Budgie

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INTELLIGENCE

In spite of their small size, Budgies are big on brains and personality. Many have been taught to whistle tunes and talk, and are just as intelligent as some larger bird species. With proper training and socialization, they can be a delightful addition to almost any family.

TALKING ABILITY

These little birds can have vocabulary of more than 1700 words, with successful training. They are very chatty and they can even start making up their own phrases. The famous budgie called Disco has such a big vocabulary and pronounce the phrases he learned so well that everyone loves listening to his tiny and lovely voice:

FEATHER PLUCKING

Whilst it is not as common to feather pluck (as in African Grey parrots or cockatoos) it does still happen. They do require a substantial amount of mental stimulation and an adequate amount of undivided attention from their human companions.

HOUSING FOR YOUR BUDGIE

  • The cage that you purchase must be as large as possible. Note, the width is more important than the height as budgerigars need to have spacious flying space.
  • As a rule the cage size for one budgie should be a minimum of 12″ x 18″ x 18″, while for two – 39” x 20” x 32”.
  • The bar spacing is very important. And it should be no more than ½” to 5/8” (1.3 – 1.6 cm).
  • Ideally locate it in a quiet corner away from busy or noisy parts of the house. From there they can see people coming and going but aren’t surrounded by activity and noise, which can be stressful.
  • Locate it out of direct sunlight and draughts.
  • Variety of toys should be available for your playful budgie. Such as, foot toys, destructible (non-toxic) toys, non-destructible (non-toxic plastic) toys, food-finder toys, preening toys, different texture and size hanging perch toys, fir branches, push-and-pull toys (sliding up and down), vegetable tanned leather toys.
  • They should be allowed out of cage on daily basis.

FEEDING & SUPPLEMENTS FOR YOUR BUDGIE

  • Feed your budgies good quality, commercially available budgie food every day. We recommend complete pelleted foods, as they contain the right nutrients in the right amount. Always follow the amounts on the packet guidelines. Replace any uneaten food daily.
  • Give them bird grit, available from pet shops. This helps them grind their food in their stomach and helps with digestion.
  • Give vitamin supplements recommended by your vet.
  • You can give the items below in small quantities. Wash them first to remove any chemical traces. Cut them into smaller pieces. You don’t need to take the skin off. Give them to your budgies in a separate bowl from their pellets.
    Healthy organic foods & supplements: Apple, sweet potato, salad cress, grated carrot, grapes, pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli, parsley, spinach, mango, and papaya.
  • While many commercial budgie diets consist of only seeds, they alone do not provide adequate nutrition for pet birds. Most veterinarians recommend that budgies are placed on a diet of extruded pellets, as they contain important vitamins and nutrients and can be fortified with additional supplements.
  • Budgies should also be offered a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, including apples, grapes, and leafy greens.
  • Fresh clean water should be available at all times. Food and water dishes should be washed daily.

FACTS

Because of their small size, they are easy to keep and care for, making them a wonderful option for children. They are a snap to clean up after, inexpensive to feed, and can easily be kept in a small condo or apartment.

In spite of their small size, Budgies are big on brains and personality. Many have been taught to whistle tunes and talk, and are just as intelligent as some larger bird species. With proper training and socialization, they can be a delightful addition to any family.

While they look forward to time spent with their human companions, they can be quite independent, making them perfect for novice bird owners. Those that wish to form an especially strong bond with their pet budgie should resist the temptation to add other birds to the home, as budgies can sometimes be less enthusiastic about people in a flock environment.

Interesting fact about these little feathered friends is their cere which is blue in male birds and brown in female