Analysing videos posted on social media (video mining) is a novel way to studythe behaviour of companion animals in their home environment. Online videosposted by owners can purposefully or inadvertently capture behaviouralpathologies in companion animals. Feather-damaging behaviour, the compulsiveremoval of their own or another bird’s feathers, is a common behaviouralpathology in companion parrots. Not seen in wild parrots, feather-damagingbehaviour is thought to be the product of chronic stress associated withcaptivity.

This study mined videos posted on You Tube to investigate potential riskfactors for feather-damaging behaviour. Inclusion criteria included videoswhere the entire parrot, plumage condition and the cage setup were visible.Matched control parrots (n=26) were identified using the same criteria. Whereparrots with feather damage were identified (n=36 individual companion parrotsfrom different owners), all subsequent videos of that individual were viewed.Videos (averaging 339 ± 37 seconds each in duration) were viewed and metricsrecorded including: parrot genus, sex, age, other behavioural problems, ownertype, human-animal interaction, cage location and size, presence of otherparrots, presence of other companion animals, enrichment, interventions andplumage condition score.

The risk of feather-damaging behaviour appeared to be lower when companionparrots were kept in the presence of other companion animals and when theywere provided with vegetables, fruits and foraging and chewable devices.Interventions for feather-damaging behaviour included rehoming, enrichment,drugs, collars and housing with other parrots. Parrots who received nointervention worsened over time. Rehoming was the most common and effectiveintervention, adding further weight to the case that this behaviouralpathology is associated with risk factors in the home environment.

Acharya R, Rault J-L (2020) Risk factors for feather-damaging behaviour incompanion parrots: A social media study. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour40:43-49

Source: RSPCA Science Update

Image: Bigstock

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