Foraging …. For your species
Parrots (those colourful, noisy, often messy feathered creatures) all belong to the class Aves and the order Psittaciformes.
So if there are all pretty closely related, surely that means majority of parrots find their food the same way and eat the same diet?
The number of parrot species in Australia and New Zealand alone exceed sixty! Worldwide there are more than 350 species, each individual species forming a specific niche of dietary needs, social constructs and ecological function.
Parrots in forested areas of Australia and New Zealand are often relied upon entirely for the carrying of fruits containing seeds, to germinate in new terrain. Native trees evolved to work with these parrot species to make their fruit enticing and worth the effort for our clowns of the sky, to consume and carry.
Parrot species native to arid environments of Australia have evolved to be able to digest and consume seeding grasses, the grasses using a similar concept (tasty and nutritional) to ensure seeds are spread far and wide.
The differences between species is often so vast that we as carers, need to ensure innate behaviours (of these foraging techniques, and other behaviours) are able to be performed in a captive environment.
So how do we create foraging opportunities for our specific species?
Foraging can be shortly defined, as the act of searching and finding food. So our first step in creating species specific foraging is researching how each species naturally ‘searches’ for food.
Searching for food:
Within our parrot species, there are those that primarily climb through the tree tops and reside high off the ground. These species are often called Arboreal – In the trees.
Others spend little time in the trees searching for food and spend majority of the time searching down on the ground. These species we will call Terrestrial – on the ground.
As an example see below table for some common pet species that fit relatively well within these constructs:
Once we have researched where our species is searching, our next step is how.
How does the species we care for find their food?
Do they use their feet to hold onto fruits?
Do they use their beaks to delicately pluck seeding grasses?
Do they use their beaks to crush and open nuts?
Or do they use their delicate fringed tongues to collect pollen and nectar?
Learning how they use their feet and beaks to collect food will ensure that foraging opportunities be met to those innate behaviours, and our money and time spent in appropriate ways to allow them.
Putting the two components together makes for easy creation of foraging opportunities that fit with the species in care.
If our our species is an arboreal searcher and uses their feet to hold fruit (feet finder?) then great options for these species are hanging baffle cages and food packages that require manipulation with feet to stay hanging on, and use of beaks to tear open cardboard and paper.
If we have a terrestrial searcher and a seeding grass muncher then foraging trays and digging materials make great options.
Use your imagination with creation of foraging toys, but don’t forget about the ever important research aspect to ensure highest chance of successful use of the item!
While creating and using foraging as part of daily enrichment, always remember that every individual is different and you may find your species likes a mix of both. Its important to look at the bird in front of you. And remember.....have fun!
The Parrot Life Team
If you need help with your parrot get in touch! phone: 0477 676 312
email: firstname.lastname@example.org FB: @parrotlifebehaviourandtraining