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charmedbyekkie 12-07-2019 10:16 AM

Nature versus Nurture?
I just received word from our breeder friend about Cairo’s siblings. (Cairo doesn’t come from her flock - she’s just one of the few breeders and is actually the go-to ekkie expert in the country.)

She let me know that one of his siblings is only 1yo and already biting, and another sibling who is fully mature is lunging constantly. She advised that Cairo “needs a lot to keep him happy” and has even pointed me to foraging toys on sale (yes, I picked them up already).

Which makes me wonder about nature (his family genetics) versus nurture (his upbringing with his previous family and with us).

What keeps coming to mind is the domesticated Russia foxes []. Clearly a nature situation.

And considering that parrots are still being illegally caught in neighbouring countries and smuggled in (though our immigration authority does their best to catch and stop this), I wonder how many generations apart is Cairo from his wild ancestors. For all we know, one of his parents could be wild-caught.

And I also wonder, since it’s likely that Cairo’s breeder doesn’t track such behavioural traits and likely just breeds his birds when they come to maturity, if such aggressive behaviour has been bred into his family (like a reverse of the Russian foxes). Perhaps both his parents are aggressive and so kept only as breeder birds rather than sold as pets.

And if this aggression is genetic, how much of an impact can we have on Cairo and how much should we just accept as just who/what he is? He’s been so good recently, and I do think it’s really due to me starting to keep his cage full of foraging plants/veggies (like a bloody jungle in there).

Thoughts? How much do you just accept as bird nature? How much do you try to change?

Scott 12-07-2019 11:02 AM

Re: Nature versus Nurture?
I suspect with the undomesticated nature of our parrots, nature is predominant. However, hand rearing and intimate socialization demonstrates individuals are subject to deep conditioning.

Yet it is possible for wild parrots to adapt. Witness the incredible interlude Hannah has* with Sunny the cockatoo. I have a wild caught pair of Goffins; one chose to tame and will cuddle/sit on shoulder while the other is aloof but clearly not fearful.

*Until proven otherwise, I believe Sunny will return.

noodles123 12-07-2019 11:06 AM

Re: Nature versus Nurture?
I also do think that if that bird was around other birds that it could have something to do with it. Yes, nature plays a role, but...take this example: A single child is much less likely to be a bully than a group of 3 or 4 (A. their behavior can fuel behavior in others, B. it's less risky to take risks in a group, and C. less support is needed when you feel like you already have a "pack"). Also, if his brother was housed with other birds, it is possible that it bonded with them and is showing aggression due to hormones and their influence/less bonded with humans...
BUT puberty and birds= not fun in general, PLUS, I do believe it may be their breeding season right now, so that could explain Cairo's issue.

When I first got Noodles, she was VERY different but it had a lot to do with so many things. If you had met her at that time, you would have thought she was way more aggressive and less social than she is now. Currently she is a tad hormonal so she is way less calm than she normally would be (won't settle, very needy, saying come'ere all the time)....Which is normal, but this is like a lot more amplified. I think hers is seasonal.

If I am not mistaken, 1 Y.O is around the time when Eclectus parrots become hormonal, so "one-year-old and already biting" is like "17 years old and already sassing parents over the car".

chris-md 12-07-2019 11:44 AM

Re: Nature versus Nurture?
The fox experiment primarily tied domestication and temperament breeding to androgens, and proving that coat color comes with the package. Essentially highlighting the extent to which androgens influence more than Just libido

This is why I squarely agree with Scott here. It’s predominantly nature. There’s a statistic I read online (take it for what it’s worth) that any given bird is no more than 2 generations removed from the wild. We can simulate positive temperament with habituation/taking advantage of natural imprinting processes (hand feeding) and positive reinforcement. But it’s just that, learned behavior. They can easily revert once mistreated.

The plasticity and amenability to temperament breeding will vary from one species to another. dogs and cats in point: both have been domesticated for thousands of years, but cats are far closer to feral and unpredictable than dogs are. We get so picky about dog breeding, breeders will deem a female unsuitable for breeding if she gets aggressive with her owner around her newborn litter.

We just haven’t gotten there with parrots yet. Would be fascinating to see what the result would be if we could mimic the fox experiment in parrots. But My gut says you’ll only get so far, similar to cats.

Laurasea 12-07-2019 03:30 PM

Re: Nature versus Nurture?
There was a science study that finally admitted that animals have personality traits. They traked traits like agression, fearful, curious , and freindly. Some of this is indeed hard wired into Genetics. Ensuring species survival in changing environments when one of the personality traits might prove valuable.

The study mention that genetic diversity was being lost in the limited captive zoo Gene pool as agressive animals weren't being bred. At the time they weren't breeding for less agressive animals, rather agressive hard to deal with animals just got shipped to zoos as display animals. For example if five cheetah Cubs were born , the agressive one was just choose by the keepers as the one sent on. There is a species survival plan for all captive animals and careful breeding records are kept, but only a few from each litter are kept to continue on that line . I don't know if I'm explaing it well..... But over time the zoo animals are kind of becoming domesticated to some extent because those traits were easier to manage in a breeding program.

But you can't select for one trait, as other Genetics are linked , or tag along for the ride. For example it's generally excepted that blue quakers are smaller than other color quakers. That holds true for mine, my blue guy is the smallest !

Silversage has mentioned in her Avairy thread that she is breeding for more tameable ringnecks. She has one pair that keeps producing less tame babies and said she was going to repare them

So yes I think genitecs play a role. And yes I also think the nuture part plays a role as well. Like you might have a tendency to be a brat, but if things like good food, good activity, good freinds, you are less likely to express your bratty self.

Scott 12-08-2019 01:38 PM

Re: Nature versus Nurture?
I would love to attempt third generation breeding with one of my trio of twenty-something male Goffins, but would need a hen and lots of patience! (their parents took ~8 years to reproduce) At this stage of my life with 8 parrots, not sure that is in the future lol.

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