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Companion Parrot Sexual Imprinting

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Companion Parrot Sexual Imprinting

Postby Michael » Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:06 pm

Is anyone familiar with hand raised parrot sexual imprinting? How do they sexually imprint and to what? Do they sexually imprint to humans because they fed them or to their brood siblings because they spend most time with them. Do companion parrots sexually imprint on a specific "type" of human such as the same gender or similar appearance to the one who hand fed them? Has anyone ever observed a companion parrot try to mate exclusively with one "type" of person. What I mean by type is what could be visually grouped together like children (small people), women (long haired people), etc. Or do you see parrots sexually imprint on their favorite person without regard to how they were hand raised? Is there any correlation between how they were hand raised to who they bond to in a sexual bond?

Do hand raised companion parrots kept solo successfully breed with same species parrots later in life if later introduced? Is parrot mating behavior (courting, rituals, and sex) innate or learned? I know these questions may be well beyond what is known, but if anyone has observed any of this in their parrots, heard someone with information, or read about it, I'd be quite curious to know.
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Re: Companion Parrot Sexual Imprinting

Postby Mona » Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:42 pm

Hi Michael:

These are interesting questions and they would probably be good candidates for a study of some sort. Ornithologists know that birds of all kinds have very elaborate and differing courtship rituals. Is it innate or learned? To some extent, it must be learned. I have heard that in aviculture, it is often difficult to find male parrots that will breed because they never learned how to quite get it right. For a lot of species, the hens tend to "catch on" but without a role model, the boys seem to have difficulties...and even if they do breed, the boys especially often do not catch on to the skills needed to raise a family.

Part of the courtship ritual has to do with feeding. I think that would be hard-wired because of the bird's anatomy and because they have a crop. Regurgitation seems to be a natural behavior for a lot of species of parrots.

I have also seen it argued that "imprinting" is the wrong term to use for parrots. Parrots do not necessarily "imprint" like a duck or a chicken will do. It has been argued that their early learning is a lot more sophisticated because they are altricial, not precocial. It's theorized that altricial babies don't imprint.

I suspect that many species of parrots have very sophisticated social networks in the wild. Some of that may be preserved when we bring them into domesticity but a lot must get lost. This is a controversial subject because many breeders do not breed "companion parrots" but hold back babies to be raised by their parents specifically to breed - not to be raised as companions. Some people argue that co-parenting makes sense (parents raise babies with people involved) and many breeders argue that it is impossible. A lot of birds in the companion parrot trade are incubator hatched or pulled early from the nest. There is a lot of discussion about this. I personally do not know how much is conjecture and how much is really understood.

Living with three Senegals, I can see that they do have a sophisticated social acumen and it seems to me that it's about much more than "sex". They also seem to form alliances. It's not so much imprinting. I think they have some sort of "logic" that I may not clue in on very well. I think part of the "logic" has to do with forming "clicques" like kids do in high school. The logic is probably more in the line of: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The friend of my enemy is my enemy...that kindof stuff.

I don't know the answer but this is certainly an important subject and one that deserves a lot more consideration. I think a breeder would do a much better job of weighing in on it.


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