Avian Expert Articles

Companion Parrots Need Busy Work To Thrive

African grey parrot on perch in cage playing with toyIn the wild, creatures of all kinds have a level of differing intelligence that assists them in their daily existence. None of this is a surprise. It stands to reason that the ability to process thoughts, decipher problematic situations that occlude the way of necessity and the ability to get along is quite the requirement for any creature — humans included.

For our beloved parrots, a collection of scientific tests and published studies over the decades has uncovered just how smart these majestic exotic birds are. With each study, we find their ability to think logically and to react appropriately and favorably far outweigh our previous understanding. In short, we’re not only learning the vast depths of parrot intelligence, but in so learning, we develop a new understanding of not just birds, but other creatures as well.

The Need For Mental Stimulation

Let’s concentrate on the parrots that are in our homes rather than in the wild. What of their intelligence? Well, we already know they’re smart. But it’s important to recognize that most of the birds in our homes are typically the only one in the setting. In that, they are deprived of a hive learning process. Recently, researchers at the University of Guelph (Canada), University of Bristol (UK), and Utrecht University (Netherlands) studied large-brained parrots in homes. They determined that birds in a home setting need continued and intense stimulation to improve the mental capacity they can achieve.

Food For Thought

double yellow-headed Amazon on perch eating an Avi-Cake
Amazon parrot with Avi-Cakes.

This new study drew on results from a 1990 study that looked at abnormal behavior in the cage — pacing, biting bars, and other concerning behaviors. That study looked at unchallenging diets, generic housing methods, and a host of other things to recognize how such creatures adjusted to a different life away from their accustomed and wild environment.

It was discovered that a diet of standard seed, insects, and nuts was typically not the best diet to provide to a bird in the home or a zoo setting. Rather, more complex feeding was determined to be best. This gave the parrots a chance to spend a large amount of time foraging and working to extract their foods, a process they readily did in the wild.

Birds in homes are not the only ones impacted by this. In fact, the birds in zoo settings have as much need, if not more. The results of this new study revealed empirically that many large-brained creatures struggled mentally in caged -or closed-in settings.

How To Help Your Feathered Pal

To prevent our birds from becoming mentally corralled leading to adverse behavior, it’s recommended that more mental stimulation be provided. Puzzles that pique the interest of the bird, and a naturalized aviary setting can go a long way in providing the mental stimulation that your bird requires. In fact, understanding the kind of bird that you have in your home can go a long way in helping them exist in a healthy manner — both physically and mentally.

It is estimated that most exotic birds alive today are pets inside homes. This puts an extraordinary responsibility on the owner to ensure that their bird receives the proper mental and physical stimulation, challenging foods, and excellent health care.

If your bird is exhibiting concerning behavior like feather-biting and plucking, take the time to explore what might help them to better exist in their current setting.

This new study was recently published in the Biological Sciences journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

One thought on “Companion Parrots Need Busy Work To Thrive

  1. You hit all the nails right on the head! My CAGP is too smart, but I love that she is, and I love her just like a mother loves her child.
    Although Raphaelle had inbred intelligence and I’m sure much of it would’ve popped out, parrots need constant home stimulation in all the ways you’ve nicely explained. I’m not with her 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, however, I do spend a great deal of time with her when I’m there. She loves to show me what she has learned on her own, such as new tricks, or words and songs she listens to on the radio or the recorder. Not always does she pronounce them correctly, but fairly audible, then we work on them and she naturally expects treats. Like all pet humans, we like to brag and I could go on an on. But thank you for printing the article.

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