The Norwegian Blue may only have been a fictional parrot species made famous by a Monty Python comedy sketch about a dead caged bird “pining for the fjords,” but real live pet parrots do, it seems, get the blues in captivity.
That’s according to new research published by the Britain’s Royal Society, which suggests the bigger the captive bird’s brain, the more likely it is to exhibit “forms of abnormal behaviour,” such as chewing the bars of its cage or plucking its own feathers.
The extent to which more intelligent parrot species are “prone to disease” and “apparently shortened lifespans” appears equivalent to the “mismatch” between captivity and life in the wild, say academics from Britain’s University of Bristol and Bristol University, as well as Canada’s University of Guelph and the Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“The extent to which captivity constrains animals’ natural behaviours,” and reduces their scope “for foraging, decision-making and cognitive problem-solving” leads to “frustration,” the researchers found.
More active and intelligent wild parrots can spend up to 75 per cent of their time foraging, according to the experts, a rough-and-tumble of problem-solving and decision-making that is not compensated for among captive birds by the chance to say “Polly wants a cracker.”
Parrots in the wild are often “naturally social” but such species often live without any such social contact when captive and are at risk of suffering “boredom.”
In general, “intelligent animals have unique welfare needs in captivity,” the researchers say, recommending that owners offer “more naturalistic diets” and come up with “cognitive stimulation” to liven things up for the caged birds, who could otherwise end up “pining” or even an “ex parrot,” as the 1969 sketch put it.Show