Maybe what Polly wants is a new toy | Science News

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Maybe what Polly wants is a new toy

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1:26pm, July 29, 2003

From Boise, Idaho, at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society

Changing the toys frequently in a parrot's cage may reduce the bird's tendency to fear new things. Bird keepers grow anxious as their birds fidget, sometimes plucking their own feathers, says Rebecca Fox of the University of California, Davis. The fearfulness, or neophobia, also raises questions about bird development.

Research in rats linked neophobia to early separation from Mom, but experiments found no such link for parrots. Other studies even showed that nestlings fed by people were less afraid of new things until age 6 months than were birds reared by their parents. The effect doesn't last, though, and the hand-reared birds by 1 year of age show the typical neophobia.

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