Social Live and Aggression in quaker parrots (monk parakeets)

A new study teaches us a little more about quaker parrots’ social lives.

quaker parrotsA study of aggression in quaker parrots (monk parakeets) suggests that where they stand in the pecking order is a function of the bird’s carefully calibrated perceptions of the rank of their flock mates.

Newly formed groups of quaker parrots do not show evidence that they perceive rank, yet they figure it out quickly after about a week of interactions. That’s when individuals direct aggression more frequently against those nearby in rank rather than with lower-ranked birds.

But how do the birds infer rank — their own and the rank of those in the rest of the flock — and then act upon it?

“Parakeets appear to be able to connect the dots in their groups, remembering chains of aggression, so if A fights B, then watches how B fights C and how C fights D and how D fights E, then A will use this knowledge to adjust how it interacts with E based on all of the fights in between,” said the study’s lead author Elizabeth Hobson, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. Hobson has been studying quaker parrot social behavior for a while now.

The study published today in the journal PLOS Computational Biology sheds new light on how socially complex animal societies evolve and how dominance hierarchies are established.

quaker parrotsA socially and cognitively complex species, monk parakeets inhabit a social structure organized by dominance hierarchies, such that each animal is ranked as dominant over animals below it and submissive to those above it in the hierarchy. Aggressive encounters usually drive rankings, and a higher rank, of course, often means better foraging and greater chances of reproductive success.

Unlike other animals that might use visual cues, such as size, or perceptional clues, such as spatial location, to determine rank, the monk parakeet appears to rely on other clues — ones that are based on newly acquired social knowledge, the study found.

In the study, Hobson and co-author Simon DeDeo of Indiana University and the Santa Fe Institute analyzed detailed observations of aggression in two independent groups of captive monk parakeets. Each group was observed over the course of 24 days.

“We looked for cases where we could clearly determine a winner when aggression took place — often these were cases where a bird approached another and knocked it off its perch. It’s pretty easy to determine the winner in these kinds of events,” Hobson said.

A total of 1,013 wins in one group and 1,360 wins in the second group were analyzed.

quaker parrotsMathematically sophisticated computation with this rich dataset then revealed that as individuals begin to interact and watch the fights of others, they accumulate knowledge of who wins in fights against whom. Once this knowledge is present, the birds use it refine their own behavior, for example, by avoiding fights with birds higher-ranked than themselves, but also birds that were much lower-ranked. Instead, they focused their aggression by choosing individuals with whom they might be closely matched. In effect, the aggression becomes more strategically directed.

Thus, the ability to determine rank amongst these socially precocious birds appears to be an act of cognitive complexity, learned through the bird’s careful observation of how the other birds interact.

“Our approach provides insight not only into how these parakeets are behaving in their groups, but also into the cognitive skills they would need to exhibit these kinds of strategic behaviors. This allows us to start to understand the interaction between social and cognitive complexity and to begin to compare what we see in the parakeet groups to other socially complex species like primates,” Hobson added.

Basically, while a bigger bird might win a fight, that isn’t how rank is determined in the quaker parrot pecking order. “Rank was not significantly associated with the physical size of individuals, including weight, wing length, and beak properties,” the study says.

Credits: BirdChannel & PLOS

Related Posts

Parrot Supplies Promos & Discount Codes at Parrot Essentials

Parrot Supplies Promos & Discount Codes 2024 – Parrot Essentials

Welcome to Parrot Essentials, your one-stop shop for everything parrot-related! We are thrilled to start with a variety of parrot supplies promotions and exclusive coupon codes designed specifically for you…

Read more
Endell Veterinary Group

Endell Veterinary Group

Endell Veterinary Group, founded in the early 19th century, is a distinguished veterinary clinic known for its comprehensive range of animal care services, including a notable field of avian care….

Read more
Where do Parrots Come From - Gondwanan Origin.

Where do Parrots Come From?

Exploring the Ancient Origins of Parrots: A Gondwanan Legacy The origins of parrots are a fascinating subject that intertwines avian biology with the deep history of our planet’s landmasses. Recent…

Read more
Arcadia Bird UV Lights & Lighting Equipment

Arcadia Bird Lights

Arcadia Bird has become a beacon of innovation and quality, offering an extensive range of Bird Lights with nearly twenty years of experience providing lighting solutions. In this blog post,…

Read more
preening macaw parrot

Understanding Basic Parrot Behaviours by Parrot Essentials

Parrots try to communicate with humans through body language, actions and vocalizations. Here are some basic parrot behaviours to give you the ability to understand what parrots are trying to…

Read more
Amazon parrot

Hormonal parrot: Causes & solutions

If your parrot suddenly seems to turn on you in every possible way, it can be easy to become frustrated with your bird. Many parrots end up being given away…

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *