Faithful Friend, African Gray Parrot Has Unique Behavior

Gray parrots from Africa turned out to have a unique behavior that was previously only seen in primate groups.

A test conducted by researchers, an African Gray Parrot was placed in a different cage from other birds. In the test the African Parrot was fed and exhibited prosocial behavior. As a result, the parrot actually distributed the food it had to its colleagues.

The behavior exhibited by the African Parrot was previously only seen in apes. The bird helps its partners to complete the task, even though the task is not profitable for themselves.

Behavior that is only found in apes

In the first study, birds showed self-help behavior. While other prosocial behavior is seen in this bird.

The research team said the behavior of helping his colleagues to achieve a goal was called instrumental assistance.

Previously, this behavior was only shown to orangutans and bonobos. Dr. Désirée Brucks, co-author of a paper from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, said testing of African Parrots was considered very appropriate.

“Parrots, corvids and crows are known as the most intelligent birds. They are called feathered apes and they have been tested in many studies,” Brucks said.

However, Brucks explains that not all birds are docile, like parrots can show prosocial behavior. In previous studies, showing crows did not help their colleagues complete the task.

While recent research on the Blue-Head Macaw, shows a rather selfish attitude. Researchers say their findings show helpful behavior emerged several times during evolution.

“It seems that social and ecological pressures have the same potential for mammals and also birds, leading to similar developments,” Brucks explained.

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The paper written by Brucks and his team in the journal “Current Biology” also reports how testing was carried out on two parrot species.

Both parrot species were given the task to pass the tokens in the form of metal rings. Through holes in their compartments to neighboring birds of the same species. The token is then passed on by the second bird to humans, through another hole, which will be exchanged for a piece of walnut.

A total of eight African Parrots and six Blue Head Macaws were involved in the experiment. All were trained individually to exchange tokens for food when a human reached out his hand.

The researchers saw African Parrots helping other birds by giving tpken, when humans reached out. Whereas in the second bird, dropping tokens through the hole and receiving snacks to enjoy yourself.

The same behavior is also seen, when the role of birds is reversed. The more tokens are given, the more rewards are received.

Selfless behavior in parrots

However, the team stressed that the birds did not know if their help would be returned. This shows this behavior selflessly. When experiments are repeated and applied to Blue Head Macaws, these birds rarely give tokens to their neighbors.

The researchers concluded that the African Parrot helped its partners to achieve their task. In addition, this bird adds more complex behavior than just sharing food, because it understands the needs of other birds so that the parrot can achieve its goals.

Researchers also say the possibility of differences between species, where African Parrots will gather in large swarms at night. Whereas during the day to find food, this herd will split into smaller groups. Brucks said such behavior is thought to require strong social cognitive abilities.

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He added that this bird flock helped his partner get a good reputation with his colleagues.

“So, it is more likely for them (African parrots) to work together looking for food and other tasks,” he explained.

Animal behavior expert, Dr. Manon Schweinfurth of St Andrews University said evidence of reciprocal behavior in African gray parrots is very interesting.

“Cognitive awareness so far has only been shown in humans. We now have more evidence from other animals, that they can also show reciprocity,” said Schweinfurth.