Preferences of Orange-winged Amazon parrots for cage enrichment devices

Source: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009, volume 120, issue 3-4
Cage enrichment devices, frequently termed cage "toys", are often provided to captive parrots as a means of promoting a behaviorally stimulating environment, but it is not clear whether particular properties of these devices are more effective than others in eliciting engagement with them.
We tested preference for color, size and hardness of cube-shaped cage enrichment devices (EDs) constructed from wood and of color preference for EDs constructed from flat rawhide rectangles. Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica; N = 8–10, mixed-sex, 4–5 years of age) were individually housed in cages each equipped with two computer-monitored omni-directional lever-type switches attached to cage ceilings. EDs were attached to the switches; any interactions generating lateral movement and causing switch closure (operationally constituting “use” of EDs) were continuously recorded. Preference for 3.8 cm3 softwood (Douglas fir) cubes dyed in eight different colors was tested by presenting each bird with all combinations of colors, two colors at a time. Daily switch activity averages were computed for each bird and subjected to repeated-measures ANOVA: yellow cubes elicited greater use than red, green, blue, violet or natural cubes (P < 0.05; but see below) and orange cubes were preferred over green and blue cubes (P < 0.05). Color exerted no effect in a comparable trial of rawhide rectangles. Preference for size of yellow hardwood cubes was tested by presenting combinations of cubes of three sizes: 2.5, 3.8, and 5.1 cm3; the smallest blocks were preferred over the largest size (P < 0.001). Preference for hardness of wood was tested by presenting birds with 3.8 cm3 yellow cubes and blue cubes made of either Douglas fir (“soft”) or birch/maple (“hard”) wood; birds preferred softer cubes (P < 0.0002), but there was no significant preference of yellow over blue. The results show that color, hardness, size and material all influence ED use by captive Amazon parrots. This constellation of preferences may reflect properties of foods native to Orange-winged Amazon natural habitat.

Title: Preferences of Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica) for cage enrichment devices

Authors: Lilian C. Kim, Joseph P. Garner and James R. Millam

Source: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009, volume 120, issue 3-4