Feather-damaging behaviour in companion parrots: an initial analysis of potential demographic risk factors

Kinkaid, Heather McDonald Y. and Mills, Daniel S. and Nichols, Steve G. and Meagher, Rebecca K. and Mason, Georgia J. (2013) Feather-damaging behaviour in companion parrots: an initial analysis of potential demographic risk factors. Avian Biology Research, 6 (4). pp. 289-296. ISSN 1758-1559

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3184/175815513X13803574144572

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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Captive parrots (Psittaciformes) commonly engage in 'feather-damaging behaviour' (FDB) that suggests compromised welfare. Susceptibilities to FDB have been suggested, but not empirically demonstrated, to vary across the >200 species kept in captivity. Other demographic risk factors have been proposed for particular species - but neither confirmed nor generalised across Psittaciformes. In this preliminary study, we analysed data from a previously-conducted survey of pet owners: among 538 companion parrots representing 10 non-domesticated, non-hybrid species (n≥17/species), FDB prevalence was 15.8% overall. We tested whether individual FDB status was predicted by four previously-suggested demographic risk factors: species, sex, age, or hatch origin. Available (limited) data on husbandry were assessed as potential confounding variables and controlled for as appropriate. Species identity was a predictor of FDB status (P=0.047), even after controlling for all other variables tested; however, in light of multiple statistical testing, this effect cannot be considered robust until it is replicated. The strongest predictors of FDB status were age (P=0.001; with odds of positive FDB status lower in juveniles versus adolescents or adults [P≤0.036]), and sex (P=0.006; with odds of FDB lower in individuals of unknown, versus known, sex [P≤0.037]). These findings need to be replicated with data that allow better statistical controls for systematic differences in housing. However, they do provide preliminary empirical evidence for within-species risk factors (suggesting new, testable hypotheses about the etiology of parrot FDB); and for intrinsic, cross-species differences in FDB susceptibility (providing a rationale for future study of the biological factors that might underpin any such taxonomic differences).

Keywords:Parrots behaviour, Feather-damaging behaviour
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:13377
Deposited On:19 Feb 2014 11:35

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