December 14, 2016

How Should Enrichment Strategies Vary With Different Bird Species?

M. Scott Echols, DVM, ABVP, owner of Echols Veterinary Services, explains how and why enrichment strategies should vary across bird species.
By American Veterinarian Editorial Staff


M. Scott Echols, DVM, ABVP, owner of Echols Veterinary Services, explains how and why enrichment strategies should vary across bird species.
 
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
 
“There is no one form of enrichment that is going to be best for every bird. There’s obviously going to be differences between the species, but there’s also differences between the individuals. Again, I go back to [the question], ‘How do we help an animal perform species-typical behaviors?’ We want to provide enrichment that works for the animal and for the caretaker.
 
If you have this elaborate enrichment program [or] you design one, and the caretaker cannot do it, it’s of no value. At the same time, if you have enrichment devices that the animal cannot use, it’s [also] of no value. What do I mean by that? Let’s say that you’re using a large ball for a dog. That large ball may not work for a little Chihuahua. The same is going to be true with toys and other enrichment items. If that bird physically can’t handle, manipulate, [or] deform [the object] in one way or another, it may not be as enriching for a little bird [that] has this large object and wouldn’t know what to do with it; [on the other hand], a larger bird could pick up, destroy, chew that object, and do whatever it needs to do. Enrichment items absolutely change between the species, and a lot of it has to do with physical abilities, design of the toy, the environment, the foraging device, as well as the type of social enrichment. Just to give an example, we wouldn’t want to put a Finch with a large Macaw. The two might not get along very well, and obviously, if the Macaw wanted to, it could really hurt the smaller bird.
 
We have to look at beak design and physical features of that animal, as far as how we’re going to implement enrichment set up. We also have to worry about security and other things. For example, what’s different between a Finch and, say, a larger Parrot? A Finch is a small prey species. As a result, we want to have hiding spaces and places where that bird can feel secure in its environment. Even if we’re not talking about just the enrichment, like the toys and the food and so forth, we also have to design an environment that works for that animal and makes it feel safe and secure; whereas, [with] a large Parrot, they want to be out and about and seeing people and interacting with people more directly. That’s another example of the difference. Again, I always come back to what works and what contributes to species-typical behaviors.”
 

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