Parrot wellness and welfare

Photo: Wellness

A Hispaniolan Amazon parrot walks on a rotating perch “treadmill” for controlled daily exercise during a study of exercise and metabolism in parrots with high cholesterol.

Wellness care and preventative medicine can help ensure a long, healthy life for any pet, but are especially important in long-lived species such as parrots. The Richard M. Schubot Parrot Wellness and Welfare Program supports education and research to advance the health and welfare of companion parrots. Another major focus of the CZAR program is research within the Parrot Wellness and Welfare Program.

Exercise and metabolism

Several common companion parrot species, including Amazon parrots and African grey parrots, are prone to developing high cholesterol as well as potentially life-threatening atherosclerosis. These conditions tend to occur together, and have both been linked to a high-fat diet. However, some parrots develop high cholesterol and are at increased risk of atherosclerosis even with an appropriate diet. In humans and other species, exercise has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce the severity of atherosclerosis. CZAR researchers are studying how controlled daily exercise affects metabolism in Amazon parrots with naturally occurring high cholesterol, in order to develop recommendations for parrot owners that may help reduce the occurrence of these important diseases.

Grants:

  • 2013 AAZV Wild Animal Health Fund, Mazuri Grant: Effects of exercise on lipid and carbohydrate metabolism in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis) with hypercholesterolemia.
  • 2013 CCAH Competitive Grant Matching Funds: Awarded subsequent to AAZV Wild Animal Health Fund grant.

Wellness benefits of naturalistic feeding behavior

Wild parrots spend a large part of the day finding edible plants, picking fruits or grains, and removing skins and shells in order to eat. Companion birds are often fed bite-sized, ready-to-eat food, and spend very little time acquiring meals. Many species of birds, from chickens to parrots to starlings, actually prefer “working” for their food, and previous studies have shown that behavioral problems can improve when birds spend more time feeding. CZAR researchers are feeding Amazon parrots an experimental diet of large, irregularly shaped pellets that promote time-consuming, natural feeding behavior. The birds are monitored for feather quality, stress hormones, and other indicators of health and welfare that may improve with a shift toward natural behavior.

Grants:

  • 2013 AAV Research Grant: Wellness benefits of naturalistic feeding behavior in orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica).
  • 2013 CCAH Faculty Investigator Grant: Wellness benefits of naturalistic feeding behavior in orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica)