The effect of early environment on neophobia in orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
R. Fox
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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Early experience is often a significant factor in shaping animals’ later behavior. Early maternal separation is associated with negative behavioral outcomes, such as increased fearfulness in rats, while higher levels of maternal grooming during the neonatal period are associated with decreased fearfulness and increased exploratory behavior. This finding may have implications for the welfare of captive parrots, many of which are hand-reared for the pet trade. We investigated the effects of three different rearing conditions on the neophobia of juvenile orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica). Hand-reared (H, N = 6), parent-reared/human handled (birds which were handled five times/week for 20 min/session between 2 and 8 weeks of age, PH, N = 6), and parent-reared without handling (P, N = 7) parrots were tested for neophobia between the ages of 4.5 and 6 months of age by measuring their latency to feed in the presence of five different novel objects. The parrots’ neophobia was assessed again at 12 months of age by measuring their response to a novel object hung in their home cage. Although PH birds were groomed by their parents significantly more than P birds (F2,16 = 6.21, P = 0.01), there was no significant difference in neophobia between the two groups (F1,11 = 0.41, P = 0.53, 1 d.f.). H birds were significantly less neophobic than P and PH birds until 6 months of age (F1,17 = 9.25, P = 0.007, 1 d.f.). At 1 year of age, P, PH, and H birds exhibited comparable levels of neophobia. Our results suggest that the development of neophobia in orange-winged Amazons is not related to parental care, but may be related to the level of novelty that the chicks experience during early life.


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