by Bob Doneley BVSc FANZCVS (Avian Medicine) CMAV
Parrots exhibit four main behaviors: socialising, grooming, sleeping and foraging.
Foraging is the instinctive behaviour of searching for, obtaining, and consuming food. All animals must forage for food in order to survive, grow to maturity, reproduce and raise young. In their natural environment birds spend up to 80 percent of their daylight hours foraging; including finding a food resource, browsing, and opening and consuming a food item. The demands of food acquisition impose significant challenges to both the physiology and behavior of birds Efficient foraging is a result of decisions regarding choice of feeding location, exploiting that location, selection of food items, and interacting with other parroots while foraging - these interactions within the environment are not only mentally stimulating but also require a tremendous amount of vigorous physical exercise.
The simple fact is: a wild bird is challenged to find food daily in order to survive and this will require a substantial amount of very hard work.
The parrot in captivity has his/her food served to him in bowls and doesn't need to spend time foraging. If we take away or limit the largest part of their natural behaviour, the time left over must be filled with socialising, grooming or sleeping - or stereotypic behaviours such as pacing, screaming, or worse. We need to evaluate our parrot's quality of life in captivity and see what we can do to meet more of their natural behaviors; only by doing this can we hope to avoid unacceptable behaviours.
Captive foraging behaviour is therefore essential for your bird's mental and physical health. It requires a user friendly, cost effective system for feeding companion birds which requires the birds to work for their food as they would in the wild. We know that an animal will choose to work for food even when identical food is freely available at the same time. The importance of foraging opportunities provides animals with something to do with their time, a concept that while simple enough can be the difference between an animal thriving - or just surviving - in its environment.
However, many captive parrots need to be taught to forage, and this process requires active participation by their owners. With the initial offering of foraging opportunities, birds may likely treat the object as a toy (or even as a threat) until they have learned to forage. The learned behavior is the process of foraging, which involves the manipulation and discovery of objects to get at a food source. Once the behavior is learned and the object is associated with food, the fear, curiosity and destruction phase ends and is replaced by true foraging for the purpose of eating.
The West Toowoomba Vet Surgery is pleased to be able to provide you, the pet bird owner, the tools you need to introduce foraging behaviour into your bird's life.
Firstly, you need to learn about captive foraging - what it is, how do you introduce it, and how do you teach your bird to utilise it. Our 'Captive Foraging' DVD will teach you all you need to know in a simple to follow format.
The next thing you need are the tools to create a foraging environment. We are pleased to announce that we now have the Creative Foraging System range of products available. Follow this link www.creativeforagingsystems.com/products.html to see the full range of products we have available.
We are very excited to be able to carry this line of foraging tools and toys, and we feel it will be of tremendous benefits to our many bird patients. Why don't you call into the Surgery and have a look at what we have - our staff are already using these toys with their own birds, and report that they love them!