parrot self care

Bruce is a Kea parrot in New Zealand and is partially beak-less. The Kea Parrot Bruce has given new meaning to the term “bird-brained.” He was discovered in 2013 in juvenile, and the top portion was injured and gone due to a pest trap.

This rare alpine parrot is making scientists spellbound by the eerie adaptive behavior. The bird is using pebbles and twigs to preen instead of his beak.

A parrot can live without preening, but it’s still essential for bird hygiene. Preening helps the birds get rid of dust, dirt, and parasites and permits them to align feathers for optimal aerodynamics, insulation, and waterproofing.

Amalia Bastos, a Ph.D. student at the University of Auckland in New Zealand says,

“ This is intentional and innovative because Bruce is showing this behavior in constant repetition,” to Scientific Reports. “Bruce has his own unique tool to do his chores that scientists have observed for the first time.”

Researchers write in their new paper that self-care tools in the bird are rare and many reports have been seen in the behavior of captive parrots.

Bruce holding a variety of objects. (Bastos et al., Scientific Reports,2021)

Bruce lacks his mandible and is a disabled parrot and uses pebbles to preen himself. At the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, zookeepers noticed Bruce’s habits. Bastos says that the main concern was to show that these activities were intensional.

The team observed Bruce for nine days, 90% of the time he chose pebble to preen, and 95% of the time the pebble dropped to replace with a new one.

All this indicates his intentional behavior to get the right tool for the job and no other Kea does so. The same practice was seen during rooting food where he picks up a bit of carrot and pushes it against a tough piece of metal or rock and uses that to scrape with his lower bill.

This feeding behavior is never in the other birds. It’s his way to adapt to his disability. Bruce uses pebbles to take care of his coat, brush mites, and dust from his feathers.

Bruce has also been seen preparing his food in many other unique ways. Not the first noted the report on self-care by pet parrots but in the wild, it is rare, as they have no independent care.

The tools used by Bruce are fully due to his intellect and response to his disability and flexibility. As problems emerge they can solve them well. Bruce is doing quite well despite his disability.


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