Foraging takes up a massive portion of a wild birds day. How much you say? All. Day. Realistically it’s between 40%-75% of daylight(1). Studies found that “birds generally started to feed before sunrise and continued to forage at a steady to increasing rate throughout the day.” (2) Sun up to sun down, parrots are foraging.
Ok, so what IS foraging? The behaviors that make up parrots foraging can include: Searching for locations that have desirable foods, identifying foods, obtaining the food, manipulating foods, injesting foods…that’s a lot of stuff that goes into “Hey, you should increase foraging in your parrot!”
I’m always looking for new ways to increase foraging behaviors in different animals. Even between my parrots, I have to acknowledge their preferences (cockatoos and their love for ground foraging compared to the amazons and their preference for staying in canopies). So, some of this is giving them the style of foraging that they prefer and then some is giving them something different to learn through.
What about the parrots who “don’t forage”? -Well, this is something they can learn and maybe we haven’t set them up for success, yet.
Ducky is this super handsome Amazon who came into a little rescue in Southern Arizona that I love a bunch, Little Lotus Rescue & Sanctuary. He was found by animal control drinking out of a pool. Im sure that you noticed something a little different about Ducky- He has a better pucker than you. No fear, he’s been cleared by his veterinarian and just has a few learning curves to clear out of the way.
When I first took Ducky in as a foster, he was terrified of everything. Perches, toys, bowls…all the things. I couldn’t walk by him slow enough. Slowly, he acclimated to life between his inside cage and outside aviary (YES ARIZONA WEATHER). I didn’t want to introduce foraging activities for him until he was eating regularly. Harrison’s sized-Fine for the win.
Now, he is just getting introduced to the foraging game. For some parrots, NOTHING is a match for them. They’ll demolish 2x4s and give you a stack of toothpicks in exchange. Ducky needs to learn the game, reap the rewards and THEN we can increase difficulty.
So, here is a way to:
A) Ease a beginner into foraging or
B) Offer a super quick and easy foraging opportunity as you jet out the door on your way to work for the experienced ones.
I found this utensil keeper at Ikea and snagged it. Its stainless steel AKA-easy to clean, safe, and durable.
Nuts in shell alone are a great option for parrot foraging. My parrots get aviary time on most days and have a blast flying/hanging/clambering around and that’s an awesome energy expenditure. Unfortunately, Ducky is no longer able to crack shells on his own because of his beak abnormality. I cracked his nuts in half to help him this time (and probably a few more times in the future while he gains confidence in the foraging game) but eventually I will only crack the shells enough for him to pop them open on his own.
He was a brave boy and went right to throwing cardboard everywhere. Im proud of this dude and so happy that I get to be a part of his journey to becoming a happy and fulfilled bird. Our first big training goal is voluntarily participating in his beak being dremmeled. Wish me luck (and hold me accountable).
Have you fostered a homeless animal before? Its pretty great!!!
(1)Fascinating Facts on Foraging and Enrichment. (2017, September 28). Retrieved from https://lafeber.com/vet/fascinating-facts-on-foraging-and-enrichment/
(2)Bonter, D. N., Zuckerberg, B., Sedgwick, C. W., & Hochachka, W. M. (2013). Daily foraging patterns in free-living birds: Exploring the predation-starvation trade-off. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1760).