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Parrot Toys – Study Shows Orange-Winged Amazons Have Distinct Preferences

Toys are more than just “time fillers” for parrots.  Social and highly intelligent, pet parrots suffer badly when bored, and soon exhibit destructive behaviors or stress-related illnesses.  Zoos are now requiring that toys and foraging opportunities (they call it “Behavioral Enrichment”, sounds better in journals!) be provided to animals ranging from frogs to elephants.  A study recently published in Applied Animal Behavior Science (V.120, N.3) has revealed that, at least for Orange-Winged Amazon Parrots (Amazona amazonica, please see photo), all toys are not created equal.

Parrot Preferences: What and Why

The study compared the reactions of parrots to wooden toys differing in size, color and harness and to rawhide toys that varied in color.  The toys were attached to computer-monitored switches, so that the birds’ reactions would not be influenced by observers, and could be recorded round-the-clock.

Then parrots showed a distinct preference for yellow wooden cubes, favoring them over red, green, black, violet and natural (brown) cubes.  Orange was also a favorite, but not nearly so popular as yellow.

Small (1.2 inch) cubes were chosen over larger (2 inch) ones, and soft woods such as Douglas Fir won out over Maple and Birch, which are harder and more difficult to manipulate (or destroy!).

When rawhide was tested, it was found that color had no impact on the parrot’s use of the items.  Perhaps the texture alone was attractive, but that remains to be determined.

The researchers theorized that the colors of the parrots’ natural or favorite foods might exert an influence on toy choice, but this would need be confirmed by field research involving free-living Orange-Winged Amazons (anyone interested?!).

Appling What Was Learned

Of course, any activity you provide your birds is better than none (assuming you’re not scaring them!).

I did some casual studies on Eclectus Parrots, Crows and Lesser Birds of Paradise (nothing “lesser” about them, they are gorgeous and very intelligent…please see photo!) that were under my care in zoos and at home over the years.  In some cases, novelty seemed to be more important than anything else, but some birds, especially Crows injured in the wild as adults, were very reluctant to approach unusual items…some, in fact, were frightened.

Lesser Bird of ParadiseThis research highlights the importance of experimentation when it comes to enriching our pets’ lives.  Please check out our huge array of bird toys and enrichment activities.  From toys you can create yourself to those that force the bird to work for a treat, there’s something for every species and individual personality.

Useful Boredom-Fighters

Parrots can create toys and have a good time with just about anything they manage to get hold of…as with human toddlers, this can include wallets and other items you’d rather reserve for other purposes!  However, certain toys are specifically created to encourage learning and problem solving – the items in our Educational Toy Line are designed with this in mind.

Food trumps all else when it comes to encouraging activity in parrots (or ants, elephants, catfish, people…).  Our Foraging Toys are always a big hit with birds of all kinds.



Further Reading

Please see the following articles for more on toys and activities for parrots and other birds:

Behavioral Enrichment for Parrots

Finches Use parrot Toys Too!

Video of macaws playing with sticks.

Lesser Bird Of Paradise image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Rodeime
Amazon Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Phillipp Weigell

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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