Macaws in captivity

Parrots often resort to self-mutilation in captivity.

Download the poster here

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2 Responses to Macaws in captivity

  1. Laurella Desborough February 29, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Actually, birds in the wild do display feather destructive behavior. Photos of wild macaws in South American show a hyacinth with a lot of chewed up feathers. Also, I asked an American ornithologist, who is also a well known photographer, if he ever encountered any native US birds that were feather destructive. He said yes he did. And I have seen photos of wild finches and cardinals that are completely bare headed, or have bare areas around the neck, indicative of feather destructive behavior.

    Why do birds chew on feathers? For a lot of reasons. Poor diet. Dyes in commercial parrot foods. Nothing to chew on in the cage. Serious disease or pain….such as an incorrect toenail clip. Dr. Susan Clubb has written an extensive research article on feather destructive behavior. I think that would be a resource of some value instead of simply stating the opinion that captivity is the cause of all feather destruction. It isn’t.

    • Cheryl February 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Laurella, thank you for your comment. Yes, wild birds do show feather destruction, but to the best of my knowledge, it is not self-inflicted (and this is what is depicted in the poster). In the case of the finches and the cardinals, I would hazard to guess that this is a “pecking order” type behaviour – birds doing it to other birds. Also, yes, there is feather destruction due to disease in the wild (see what’s happening with the Cape Parrots in Africa — Again though, this is not self-inflicted.

      Yes, you are correct: captive parrots chew their feathers for many reasons: poor diet, disease, stress and boredom…. These are all possible side-effects caused by captivity. If a bird is feather-picking (or worse), then the first thing for a guardian to do is take it to the vet and check for any medical causes.

      Captivity is what puts a parrot in the position of receiving a poor diet, the dyes in commercial parrot food, having nothing to do all day, receiving an incorrect toenail clip. Once medical reasons for feather destruction are ruled out, then it’s the effects of a captive lifestyle that are left and which can cause this psychological behaviour in some birds.

      Is this the article you mentioned? It looks interesting, thank you. Yes, providing some resources on feather destructive behaviour would be beneficial, and I will work on that. Thank you for the suggestion!

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