Why do captive birds need enrichment and how does one develop an enrichment plan? To better answer these questions, let’s imagine an average day in the life of a wild parrot. Many parrot species follow a common daily schedule. They begin to wake up just before then sun rises, stretching and moving about while making soft noises. Then, as the sun rises, their vocalizations become a cacophony in the tree-tops. The morning vocalization period ends and the birds leave their roosting site for a foraging session. Foraging parrots are very curious; they explore their environment with all of their senses, and manipulate it with their beaks. After the morning forage, during the heat of the day, parrots have a resting period, in which they groom and socialize. Then in the evening, they go for another foraging trip. As the sun sets, parrots return to their roosts, and settle in for the night.
Visualizing an average day of birds in the wild helps us to understand the needs of birds in captivity. Since birds in captivity don’t have the same resources challenges as those in the wild they can easily become bored or depressed. This stress, in the long-term can lead to presentation of stereotypes (abnormal, repetitive, functionless behaviors, like feather plucking, or spinning in circles). Based on our observation, we learn that parrots use their beaks to manipulate things; they roost in multiple places throughout the day; and they are both social and curious. With this knowledge, we can create enrichment activities that meet these needs.
Some enrichment activities implemented here at Pandemonium include introducing food in different ways such as hanging fruit on a kabob. One of our favorite enrichment items is shreddable paper toys, which can be built out of ordinary materials such as paper towel rolls, cardboard, and scrap paper. Sometimes we hide food inside makeshift toy compartments to make the activity a little more interesting. The key to bird enrichment is variety.