William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

Photo: Wellness Program Image
Dr. David Guzman in the Companion Avian and Exotic Practice (CAPES) with Melanie, a Moluccan Cockatoo.

Parrot Focused Research

WILL GETTING PARROTS IN SHAPE IMPROVE WELLNESS?

SPWWP researchers were selected to receive the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Wild Animal Fund's Mazuri Grant for a new study on the wellness benefits of exercise in captive parrots. Like people, parrots eating a high-fat diet can develop high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Some parrot species, such as Amazon parrots and African grey parrots, are particularly susceptible to these problems. And like people, sometimes changing the parrots' diet is not enough to bring their cholesterol back to normal. Regular exercise has been shown to improve lipid metabolism and lower cholesterol in many species, including humans. SPWWP researchers will study the link between exercise and metabolism in Amazon parrots with naturally occurring high cholesterol, as a way to reduce the risk of disease and promote longer, healthier lives for captive parrots.


NEW STUDY INVESTIGATES BENEFITS OF NATURAL FEEDING BEHAVIOR

Researchers from the SPWWP and the Department of Animal Sciences are collaborating to study the health and welfare benefits of natural feeding behavior in Amazon parrots and cockatiels. 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 pellets or food items in a dish, and consequently spend very little time eating. This “couch potato” lifestyle is often blamed for common problems such as screaming and feather-damaging behavior. Previous studies have shown that behavioral problems can improve when birds spend more time acquiring their food. Anecdotally the birds seem to enjoy it, and many species of birds, from chickens to parrots to starlings, prefer to “work” for their dinner even when food is freely available in a dish. This study will investigate specific characteristics such as the size, shape, and texture of food items that promote time-consuming, natural feeding behavior in Amazon parrots and cockatiels. During the study, birds will also be monitored for feather quality, stress hormones, and other indicators of health and welfare that may improve with a shift toward natural behavior.


NEW RESEARCH PROGRAM EVALUATING SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA IN BIRDS

The Richard M. Schubot Parrot Wellness & Welfare Program in partnership with Stanford University has created a research project that will help gather essential information regarding a significant cancer in birds, squamous cell carcinoma.  This cancer is quite common in companion birds and often responds poorly to treatment.  An online survey is helping us gather information from a large number of bird veterinarians regarding patient treatments and outcomes. This information may be used in the future to help veterinarians guide therapy as well as to guide researchers to develop clinical trials for new treatments. By gaining insight into the behavior of this tumor type in birds, we may also be able to learn more about ways to manage similar tumors in human patients.

Research studies: Our program focuses on select studies benefiting the parrot population with an emphasis on pain management, nutrition, reproduction and behavior

Team approach: Researchers work with a team of mentors in Avian Sciences, Avian Nutrition and the faculty in Zoological Companion Animals.

Health and wellness: Projects link post-graduate students in Masters degree programs with research projects designed to improve psittacine health and wellness.