Background. African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) are kept as pets and are frequently hand-reared. It has been observed that and-reared African grey parrots may develop behavioral disorders such as feather damaging behavior (FDB). It is well known that chronic stress is involved in behavioral disorders in captive parrots. The main glucocorticoid in birds is corticosterone; its quantification provides information about adrenocortical activity and is considered to be a reliable indicator of stress levels in birds. We analyzed the differences in the excretion of corticosterone metabolites (CM) in the droppings of African grey parrots characterized by: 1. different rearing histories (parent rearing vs. hand rearing); and 2. the presence or absence of FDB in hand-reared parrots. Methods. A total of 82 African grey parrots that were kept in captivity were considered. According to breeding methods, three groups of birds were defined: 1. The parentreared (PR) parrots included birds kept in pairs (n=30 airs) with a conspecific partner of the opposite sex. All of these birds were healthy and never showed FDB signs; 2. The healthy nd-reared parrots (H-HR) included pet parrots individually kept, that were hand-reared and did not display any sign of FDB (nD11, 7 males and 4 females); 3. The FDB hand-reared parrot (FDB-HR) included pet parrots individually kept, that were hand-reared and displayed FDB (nD11, 7 males and 4 females). Droppings were collected in the morning over three alternating days in autumn 2014 and spring 2015. The CM were determined using a multi-species corticosterone enzyme immunoassay kit. Split-plot repeated-measure ANOVA was used to examine any differences using group, season and group x season as the main factors. Results. Different quantities of CM in droppings were found for the three groups. The mean CM value was 587 ng/g in the PR parrots, 494 ng/g in the H-HR parrots and 1,744 ng/g in the FDB-HR parrots, irrespective of the season. The excretion of CM in FDB-HR was significantly higher than in PR or H-HR parrots. CM in droppings were not influenced by the season (autumn vs. spring); furthermore, the interaction between group and sampling season was not significant. Limited to the H-HR and FDB-HR groups, a trend in the significance of the difference in the mean CM excreted by male and female birds was observed, with the levels excreted by males being higher than those excreted by females. When the effect of age was considered (in the two separate groups), there was a statistically significant positive correlation only for H-HR. Conclusions. The highest amount of CM excretion was found in FDB-HR parrots, and a positive correlation between age and CM excretion was found in H-HR. Given that the CM excretion of both PR and H-HR parrots was similar in our study, future research is recommended to investigate the specific aspects of hand-rearing to improve parrot welfare.

An association between feather damaging behavior and corticosterone metabolite excretion in captive African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus)

COSTA, PIERLUCA;MACCHI, Elisabetta;VALLE, EMANUELA;DE MARCO, MICHELE;NUCERA, Daniele Michele;GASCO, Laura;SCHIAVONE, Achille
2016

Abstract

Background. African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) are kept as pets and are frequently hand-reared. It has been observed that and-reared African grey parrots may develop behavioral disorders such as feather damaging behavior (FDB). It is well known that chronic stress is involved in behavioral disorders in captive parrots. The main glucocorticoid in birds is corticosterone; its quantification provides information about adrenocortical activity and is considered to be a reliable indicator of stress levels in birds. We analyzed the differences in the excretion of corticosterone metabolites (CM) in the droppings of African grey parrots characterized by: 1. different rearing histories (parent rearing vs. hand rearing); and 2. the presence or absence of FDB in hand-reared parrots. Methods. A total of 82 African grey parrots that were kept in captivity were considered. According to breeding methods, three groups of birds were defined: 1. The parentreared (PR) parrots included birds kept in pairs (n=30 airs) with a conspecific partner of the opposite sex. All of these birds were healthy and never showed FDB signs; 2. The healthy nd-reared parrots (H-HR) included pet parrots individually kept, that were hand-reared and did not display any sign of FDB (nD11, 7 males and 4 females); 3. The FDB hand-reared parrot (FDB-HR) included pet parrots individually kept, that were hand-reared and displayed FDB (nD11, 7 males and 4 females). Droppings were collected in the morning over three alternating days in autumn 2014 and spring 2015. The CM were determined using a multi-species corticosterone enzyme immunoassay kit. Split-plot repeated-measure ANOVA was used to examine any differences using group, season and group x season as the main factors. Results. Different quantities of CM in droppings were found for the three groups. The mean CM value was 587 ng/g in the PR parrots, 494 ng/g in the H-HR parrots and 1,744 ng/g in the FDB-HR parrots, irrespective of the season. The excretion of CM in FDB-HR was significantly higher than in PR or H-HR parrots. CM in droppings were not influenced by the season (autumn vs. spring); furthermore, the interaction between group and sampling season was not significant. Limited to the H-HR and FDB-HR groups, a trend in the significance of the difference in the mean CM excreted by male and female birds was observed, with the levels excreted by males being higher than those excreted by females. When the effect of age was considered (in the two separate groups), there was a statistically significant positive correlation only for H-HR. Conclusions. The highest amount of CM excretion was found in FDB-HR parrots, and a positive correlation between age and CM excretion was found in H-HR. Given that the CM excretion of both PR and H-HR parrots was similar in our study, future research is recommended to investigate the specific aspects of hand-rearing to improve parrot welfare.
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African grey parrot, Stress, Corticosterone, Feather picking, Feather plucking
Costa, Pierluca; Macchi, Elisabetta; Valle, Emanuela; De Marco, Michele; Nucera, Daniele M.; Gasco, Laura; Schiavone, Achille
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1593841
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