Environmental enrichment for parrot species: Are we squawking up the wrong tree?

Rogelio Rodríguez-López

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Parrots are kept in zoos, homes and laboratories for conservation, companionship and research purposes. The intelligence, longevity and behaviour of parrots raise concerns for keeping them in these environments. Captive settings may limit the expression of normal behaviours and, as a consequence, abnormal behaviours may develop. Husbandry practices often provide animals with enrichment opportunities to prevent negative effects on their well-being. The purpose of this review is to examine the existing literature on parrot enrichment to identify which efforts are successful with these species and detect areas where more work is needed. A total of 23 articles were found to provide enrichment to parrots. Based on these, research has centred on options to diversify foraging strategies and determine object preferences. Studies analysing well-being focus on abnormal behaviour in the form of stereotypies and feather picking. Variables such as sample size and protocol duration present variable ranges across experiments. There is an under-representation of parrot enrichment studies in zoos. The most documented types of enrichment involve foraging and physical modifications while enrichment based on sensorial stimuli is non-existent. Other studies focusing on cognitive or technical capacities of parrots were not included as enrichment efforts. However, they have the potential to be considered as such if well-being is integrated into their analyses. Parrot enrichment does result in behavioural changes; exploration is already well documented. Further work should be directed towards exploring additional well-being indicators, especially in zoo environments. Environmental enrichment is not an easy concept to define since it is highly dependent on species-specific variables. Diet and sociality are varying factors across parrot species that require attention when deciding what enrichment they may benefit of. In addition to being biologically relevant, enrichment should include opportunities to solve challenges and exert control on the environment. Environmental enrichment may also be of benefit to wildlife conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Early online date29 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Parrots
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Well-being


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