Category Archives: Parrots in the News

Problem-Solving Parrots Understand Cause and Effect

Cropped-parrot-2-660x669As Published on Wired.com.   By Mary Bates

Scientists speculate two factors may influence why some animal species are smarter than others: the foraging behavior of a species (for instance, how cognitively demanding it is for the animals to obtain food) and the social complexity of the animals’ society.

A new study looked at problem-solving skills, which reflect animals’ ability to understand and solve a novel situation, and whether they’re related to a species’ social complexity or foraging ecology. Anastasia Krasheninnikova, Stefan Bräger, and Ralf Wanker of the University of Hamburg, Germany, tested four parrot species with different social systems and diets: spectacled parrotlets, green-winged macaws, sulphur-crested cockatoos, and rainbow lorikeets.

“One of the characteristics of complex cognition in animals is the ability to understand causal relationships spontaneously, and one way of testing this is asking the animal to obtain a reward that is out of reach,” says Krasheninnikova. She and her colleagues gave the birds five variations on a string-pulling task, involving strings that varied in their relationship to each other or to a food reward, to see whether the birds really understood the means-end relationship between the string and the food.

The first test was a basic string-pulling task in which the bird must figure out how to pull up a piece of food suspended from a perch by a single piece of string. Almost all the birds of all species solved this test immediately.

In the second task, there were two hanging strings, but only one was attached to a piece of food. If the bird really understood the string as a means to obtain the reward, it should pull only the rewarded string. Most of the birds (more than 75%) were able to solve this test on their first try.

To make sure that the bird really understood the functional relationship between food and string and was not just pulling the string closest to the food reward, the third task used a pair of crossed strings. In this test, pulling the string directly above the food would not result in obtaining the food, while pulling the further string that is actually attached to the food would. The spectacled parrotlets and rainbow lorikeets outperformed the macaws and cockatoos on this test, and only the parrotlets were able to figure out the test when the strings were the same color. Krasheninnikova says this study is the first to document a parrot species solving the crossed-strings task spontaneously.

The fourth task probed the flexibility of the bird’s behavior. The string was longer, so the bird could obtain the food from the ground rather than pulling the string up. Several members of all species adapted their problem-solving strategies by stopping string-pulling behavior and obtaining the food from the ground, but only the parrotlets and lorikeets clearly preferred the alternative strategy.

In the fifth and final task, there were two rewarded strings, but one had a gap between its end and the reward. Solving this task required the bird to understand the mere presence of the reward does not guarantee the reward can be obtained; the food had to be connected to the string to work properly. Parrotlets were the only species to successfully solve task five.

When Krasheninnikova and her colleagues compared their results to the birds’ lifestyles, they found the pattern in performance was best explained by differences in the species’ social structures rather than their diets.

Spectacled parrotlets performed best of the four species tested and they live in what’s known as a fission-fusion society. These birds live in large groups where they form different social subunits that split and merge, providing the opportunity for many different kinds of social interactions. They are also the only one of the four species tested to form crèches where young birds pass through the socialization process.

Green-winged macaws and sulphur-crested cockatoos live in small, stable family groups centered around a breeding pair and their offspring. These species failed tests four and five.

The social organization of rainbow lorikeets falls somewhere between the parrotlets and the macaws and cockatoos — as does their performance on the string-pulling tasks. Lorikeets live in social groups of 10-40 individuals, but do not form subunits such as crèches. They performed better than macaws and cockatoos, but not as well as parrotlets.

While these results support the social complexity hypothesis, the correlation between social structure and cognitive performance is mostly indirect. The reasoning behind the hypothesis is that living in social groups is cognitively demanding. “Individuals have to recognize group members and infer relationships among them,” Krasheninnikova says. “These demands favor the evolution of understanding functional relationships, such as which actions cause which outcomes.” Socially living animals might be able to apply this cause and effect thinking to their physical world as well as their social lives.

Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy

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Orange County California and their Wild Parrots

As seen in the Orange County Register.

What a great pictorial of the Orange County California wild parrots.  Everything you need to know about them and more.

Click here to see entire article

Ann – FunTime Birdy

OC Parrots

Parrot Population Growing in Long Beach California

mrv7qh-b781161499z.120130820220536000g0c1f9ofv.2As reported in the Orange County Register of California. 

You could say Long Beach is going to the birds.

The feral parrots of Belmont Shore have been a staple since the 1980s, and while some residents see them as a lovable mascot, others think they’re a noisy feathered nuisance. Like them or not, the birds are here to stay, experts say.
Article Tab: Parrots cruise the skies above Livingston Dr. and Ocean Blvd. in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach.

Researchers say their numbers are growing, not only in Long Beach, but throughout Southern California. The flocks are thriving in a paradise of warm weather, no natural predators and an abundance of tropical plants, said Kimball Garrett, an ornithology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.  “There’s no tree-climbing snakes, no monkeys that would be their natural predators,” he said. “They get all the fruit and seeds they need from non-native plants, and they have plenty of places where can build their nests. It’s as if the people who developed the urban landscape said, ‘Gee, what can we do to make parrots really happy?’”

Garrett, who’s studied the region’s population since the early 1980s and runs californiaparrotproject.org, thinks the numbers have grown to more than 3,500 birds and 13 different species. They are thought to be descendants of escaped pets.Where they were once found mainly in the San Gabriel Valley, flocks now are popping up in the San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica.

In Long Beach, Charlie Collins, a retired Cal State Long Beach ornithology professor, used to count the local birds each year. Collins counted just five parrots in 1987, but by 1996, the flock had ballooned to nearly 50. On his last official count before he retired around 2000, Collins saw 100 birds. Today, he estimates there are at least 200.

The red-crowned parrot from Mexico is the most common species found in Southern California. But in Long Beach, the South American mitred parakeet reigns supreme.  “They eat a little bit of everything. I’ve seen them going after apples in my backyard, and sometimes they’re over by Cal State Long Beach eating the nectar in eucalyptus flowers for a sugar fix,” he said.

Parrots prefer to nest in hollow trees but will improvise with holes in attics or open vents. Highly social animals, their familiar squawks echo through the streets as they banter with their partners and chase other birds in their territory.

They typically gather in large flocks early in the morning and then again at dusk before returning to their roosting sites.

Allen Hay knows this scene all too well. As owner of the ABC Fine Wines & Spirits liquor store at Ocean Boulevard and Livingston Street, his shop sits near a patch of tall palms that serves as the area’s best-known parrot meeting spot.

“Sometimes it’s so loud it sounds like you’re in the middle of a chicken coup,” said Hay, who’s owned the store since 1992. “But I don’t mind it. They’ve been here so long, they’re part of Belmont Shore.”

Meaghan O’Neill, a naturalist and supervisor at El Dorado Nature Center, said many people have a love/hate relationship with the birds.

“People think it’s cool and exciting to see parrots flying in the sky, but when it’s 6 a.m. and they’re eating persimmons outside your window, it’s not so cool because they’re very noisy,” she said with a chuckle.

While the flocks are growing, they don’t appear to be having a negative impact on native wildlife, Garrett said. The parrots could become a problem if they expand into rural areas, he said.

For now, they have found a mostly welcoming home in Long Beach.

Mike Nielsen, president of the El Dorado Audubon Society, said many birders now include the parrots on their list of birds to watch.

“There is a certain thrill when you see a flock of these guys overhead,” he said. “They’re attention grabbing, and that’s probably a good thing in the sense that it draws people towards nature, and it draws people towards birds.”

Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy

Houston Zoo Welcomes Birth of Rare Parrot

Rare Parrot

On May 28, a tiny St. Vincent Amazon parrot pushed its way out of an egg at the Houston Zoo.

The egg was the size of a large chestnut. The bird was 3 inches tall, with bulging eyes that would take another nine days to open and skin covered with a whitish down.

Christopher Holmes, a zoo supervisor in the bird department, was the first person to lay eyes on the rare parrot. Since then, the two have been inseparable.

Holmes, 26, says that he is the chick’s “primary hand rearer.” But let’s call it what it is.

He’s Mom.

“The chick goes with me everywhere,” says Holmes, who started volunteering at the zoo when he was 14 and is working on a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Houston. “In the beginning, I was feeding it every two hours from 5 a.m. till midnight. I did that for 16 days.”

Read more…………

Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy

Cockatoos Cause Blackout

_68918610_galahs4bbc(2)The galahs have been “annoying the township for up to two months”

Thousands of birds have flocked to a town in Australia, causing power cuts and a mess, its mayor says.  Around 2,000 pink galahs and white cockatoos have descended on Boulia, Queensland, as a result of the drought, Mayor Rick Britton said.  They have been perching on power lines, causing outages when they take off, he said.  The birds may not leave until November when rain is due, he said, so “people are going to have to live with it”.

Galahs are a type of pink-breasted cockatoo found in Australia.
Several shires in Queensland are suffering from drought due to low rainfall. Boulia is in the far west of the state.  “Because we’re in dry arid land we try to make our streets beautiful with lawns and trees – so the birds think that it’s a little secret haven in the drought,” Mr Britton told the BBC.

There were around 2,000 birds in the town, he added.

I think they are such a beautiful site to see much like the Quakers are here in the USA.

Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy

40 year Anniversary for Quakers in USA

quaker-parakeet-celebrates-40-years-in-United-StatesAs reported on the Inquisitr

The spunky Quaker parakeet has been quietly — or perhaps not so quietly — nesting successfully in the United States for at least 40 years. The Chicago colony was perhaps the first and the most famous, and Chicago magazine itself recently wished the nest-building parrot a happy 40th anniversary.

Over the years, the parrots nesting in Hyde Park have become a welcome sign of spring after Chicago’s long, notoriously cold winters. However, when it first arrived on this continent, the United States Department of Agriculture regarded it as an invasive species because of its impact on agricultural crops back home in its native South America.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Quaker parakeets and their close cousins, cliff parakeets, are the only parrot species known to build elaborate stick nests. Most parrots prefer to nest in termite mounds, cavities in trees, or even artificial nest boxes.

Audubon magazine reported that Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor, lived across the street from a well-known colony. As long as he was alive, he protected them because he believed that they brought good luck. When he died in 1987, the USDA tried to remove the Quakers.

However, a neighborhood defense committee fought for the right to keep the birds.

And a later USDA study done on the growing population in Florida acknowledged that the introduced Quaker parakeets are not important crop pests. They seem to be urban or suburban birds, and the biggest problem they cause is the power outages that occur when they build their huge colony nests too close to electrical equipment.

Advocacy groups for the wild parrots can help power companies figure out the best time to remove nuisance nests. On Wednesday, New Jersey power company PSE&G safely removed badly situated nests from utility poles in Edgewater, Fort Lee, and Leonia, NJ. The date was chosen with the help of the Edgewater Parrot Society, who explained that if the nests are removed at this time of year, it gives the birds time to re-build and lay their eggs in a safer spot.

Quaker parrots are some of the most fun loving parrots around.  Our Little Quaker Phantom passed away 2 years ago.  He had such vibrant personality.  He is surely missed!!!

Ann Zych  –  FunTime Birdy

Wild California Parrots Making Baby Parrots

california-parrots-making-baby-parrots-video-665x385California parrots are out to populate the nation, starting with the Red-crowned Amazon stars of a new video from CaliforniaFlocks. Move over, wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. You’ve got competition from your feathered friends down south.

Salvatore Angius, the filmmaker behind CaliforniaFlocks, said that he has filmed 13 parrot species in over 30 cities in his quest to raise awareness of the charming birds. The new video may be his best yet, as it captures the personality of two species of wild parrots as they pair up to start their families.

In addition to the Red-crowned Amazons getting busy on an open telephone wire, he also follows a pair of Blue-crowned Conures, a species better known to some film fans from the $23 million 1998 Hollywood feature Paulie.

It’s good to see Red-crowned Amazons (also known as Red-crowned Parrots or Amazona viridigenalis) doing the wild thing. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list, they have been endangered since at least 1994. Their population has collapsed to a few thousand individuals in their native Mexico, probably because of over-collection for the pet trade as well as habitat loss.

However, they have quietly introduced themselves to some areas of the United States, including California’s San Gabriel Valley, where they have been nesting since at least 1973. The California Parrot Project said that they are now thriving so well there that they were added to the official list of California birds in 2001.

Where did they come from? To a certain extent, no one really knows the whole story. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article said that some of the birds may have come from the old Busch Gardens bird collection at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Van Nuys. Others may have escaped from their owners or been willingly released by smugglers trying to escape the long arm of the law.

Wherever they came from, CaliforniaFlock’s video allows you to experience the beauty and energy of these intelligent parrots, even if you can’t get to the West Coast any time soon. He has a lot more videos of the parrots on his You Tube channel, and I highly recommend them to all parrot lovers.

I would love to see these parrots in the wild!!!!

Ann Zych
FunTime Birdy