Ring-necked parakeet greets ducklings

This April 2018 video says about itself:

Shafin my Indian ringneck [parakeet] parrot was scared of baby ducks before, but finally today he decided to greet them. Enjoy!!


Ten ring-necked parakeets outside my window

This video about a parakeet nest in India says about itself:

18 April 2015

The rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), also known as the ring-necked parakeet, is a gregarious tropical Afro-Asian parakeet species that has an extremely large range.The rose-ringed parakeet is sexually dimorphic. The adult male sports a red or black neck-ring and the hen and immature birds of both sexes either show no neck rings, or display shadow-like pale to dark grey neck rings.

This parrot species now also lives outside its original African and Asian homeland.

I have quite often seen ring-necked parakeets outside my window: one, two or three birds. However, today was special with a flock of ten parakeets. Nine in one tree, one ring-necked parakeet in the next tree. I had never seen so many of them there.

Puerto Rican parrots survived Hurricane Maria

This video says about itself:

Puerto Rican Parrots in the wild

6 April 2017

Scientists and animal care experts at Lincoln Park Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Puerto Rico Natural and Environmental Resources Department are working together to save the Puerto Rican parrot, one of the world’s most endangered birds. This species is endemic to the island and found nowhere else.

USFWS initiated a recovery program in 1968 after the wild population had fallen to about 70 birds, and in 1972 began captive breeding with less than 20 parrots.

Population-analysis support from Lincoln Park Zoo scientists has paid off for the species, whose bonded pairs mate for life. Its population at two aviaries and three wild-release sites in Puerto Rico now hovers around 600 thanks to a sharp increase in recent years. That’s decidedly better than 1975, when the species’ wild numbers had tumbled to a very unlucky 13.

Read more about this conservation partnership in the spring issue of Lincoln Park Zoo Magazine.

The monitoring of release sites is sophisticated and vigilant. Researchers scale trees in professional climbing gear to check on nests—including artificially constructed cavities crafted from PVC tubing—and regularly survey the wild population from atop 80-foot-high platforms. Infrared cameras inside nests stream video to screens at the aviaries, helping scientists monitor hatches and chick development. Aviary technicians also repair damaged eggs and use incubators that mimic the temperature fluctuations that occur in wild nests when mothers temporarily leave to forage for seeds and fruit.

These rare glimpses of wild Puerto Rican parrots were recorded in Puerto Rico’s tropical El Yunque National Forest.

Video courtesy of Gabriel J. Benitez, Biologist, Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, December 2017:

Birds in the Caribbean have evolved with the threat of hurricanes—but this year’s season was one for the record books. The endangered Puerto Rican Parrot survived the devastation of Hurrican Maria thanks to a combination of long-term preparedness and quick thinking on the part of local biologists. Other Caribbean endemics also seem to have survived. Read our special report.

Goffin’s cockatoos’ tool use

This video says about itself:

16 November 2016

Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the University of Oxford report that Goffin’s cockatoos can make and use elongated tools of appropriate shape and length out of amorphous materials, suggesting that the birds can anticipate how the tools will be used.

From the University of Vienna in Austria:

Cockatoo select the right key to insert into a ‘keyhole’

November 8, 2017

The Goffin’s cockatoo is not a specialised tool user in the wild but has shown the capacity to invent and use different types of tools in captivity. Now cognitive biologists from the University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna tested these parrots in a tool use task, requiring the birds to move objects in relation to a surface. The animals had to choose the correct “key” to insert into a “keyhole” in a box, aligning its shape to the shape of a surface cutout inside the box during insertion. The parrots were not only able to select the correct key but also required fewer placement attempts to align simple shapes than primates in a similar study.

Fitting an object into a matching outline such as inserting a key into a keyhole or inserting the appropriate screwdriver bit into a screw is a recurrent part of many human technical procedures and starts to develop in the first years of our life. In posting games involving coins or letters, two-year-old children also start rotating objects into the proper position before bringing it into contact with a slot. This is largely because, when moving objects in space, they start using other objects in their environment rather than only their own body as reference points: This is called an allocentric frame of reference. It is therefore not surprising that this is an important precondition for the onset of tool use in young infants, such as using a spoon or a rake.

Another important aspect of fitting tasks is geometry and symmetry. For example, inserting a circle into a matching cutout requires no particular orientation while a non-symmetrical object has only one possible correct orientation for insertion. Humans can insert a ball at already one year of age, but require another year before they can insert a cube. Older children (3-4) start rotating and comparing the objects to the cutout while holding them above before they try to insert them. Interestingly, such visual alignment seems to be missing in higher primates such as capuchin monkeys and apes. Despite their considerable dexterity they can only fit simple shapes into corresponding frames and require many placement attempts.

Goffin’s cockatoos are highly playful and inventive parrots, renowned for their intelligence and their ability to develop sophisticated forms of tool use in captivity. Cornelia Habl and Alice Auersperg from the University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna now tested their shape matching abilities in a setup that required the use of an object as a tool to obtain a food reward.

The study

“We used a box with an exchangeable, transparent front featuring a shaped hole at its centre. When an object was successfully inserted through the hole, a collapsible platform inside the box released a tasty nut at the lower end” says Cornelia Habl who conducted the study at the Goffin Lab in Vienna. “The birds selected the correctly shaped objects from a selection of up to five different shapes almost immediately without requiring any training.” She continues: “Furthermore, they required fewer placement attempts to align simple shapes (circle, square, triangle) than non-human primates. Another interesting finding was that they turned complex object shapes in a way that would minimise their effort during insertion. For example, a cross shaped object would be turned at 90°, so only two protrusions would have to be inserted instead of four, or an L-shaped object with one protrusion facing forward and backward.”

“This indicates that the animals do indeed possess an allocentric frame of reference when moving objects in space similar to two-year-old toddlers” says Alice Auersperg, head of the Goffin Lab in Vienna: “Our findings suggest that the ability to align objects to a corresponding substrate groove is not limited to animals with hand-like appendices. Birds rely more on visual cues than primates.” Follow up research on this study will focus on fine details of object alignment and beak-tongue actions on the object before and during insertion, to evaluate the role of vision in their object placement.

Budgerigars’ colours, new study

This video is called BBC documentary 2014: The Wild Bush Budgie, Nature Documentary.

From ScienceDaily:

How yellow and blue make green in parrots

October 5, 2017

When it comes to spectacular displays of color, birds are obvious standouts in the natural world. Many brightly colored birds get their pigments from the foods that they eat, but that’s not true of parrots. Now, researchers reporting a study of familiar pet store parakeets — also known as budgies — have new evidence to explain how the birds produce their characteristic yellow, blue, and green feathers.

The findings reported in the journal Cell on October 5th promise to add an important dimension to evolutionary studies of parrots, the researchers say.

“Budgerigars are a great system for studying parrot colors because artificial selection over the last 150 years has resulted in a large number of simple Mendelian genetic traits that affect color,” says first author Thomas Cooke, a graduate student at Stanford University. “We identified an uncharacterized gene in budgerigars that is highly expressed in growing feathers and is capable of synthesizing the budgie’s yellow pigments.”

Scientists have studied colors in budgies for more than a century. They knew that parrots produce psittacofulvins, a type of red to yellow pigment that’s not found in any other type of vertebrate. They also knew that an inability to produce yellow pigments in some parakeets turns the birds from yellow and green to blue. But it wasn’t clear which genes and biochemical pathways were involved.

To find out in the new study, the team led by Stanford’s Carlos Bustamante first used genome-wide association mapping to identify a region containing the blue color mutation. That region contained several genes, so it wasn’t yet clear which of them was responsible.

To narrow it down further, the researchers sequenced the DNA of 234 budgies, 105 of which were blue. They also sequenced 15 museum specimens from Australia. Those studies pointed to a single mutated gene (MuPKS) encoding a little-known polyketide synthase enzyme in the blue birds.

In another key experiment, the researchers compared gene expression from feathers of green and yellow versus blue budgies. Those studies showed that MuPKS was highly expressed in birds of both color varieties, but that there was a single amino acid substitution at a conserved residue in the blue budgies.

The researchers next cloned the MuPKS gene and inserted it into yeast to find out if the yeast would begin producing yellow pigments. And they did.

The researchers say it was a surprise to find that a mutation in MuPKS causes such a noticeable color change. That’s because similar genes are found in nearly all birds. The difference is that birds outside the parrot family such as chickens and crows don’t express the enzyme in their feathers. As a result, they aren’t yellow. This discovery suggests the key evolutionary change that led to parrot’s brilliant colors was the pattern of gene expression.

“Presumably the gene has some function in non-parrots besides pigmentation, but we don’t know what that might be,” Cooke said.

Another surprise to the researchers was that the enzyme was most highly expressed in a portion of the feather that dies once the feather is fully formed. It suggests those cells must produce the color and deposit it in neighboring cells before they die.

Color plays an important role in how birds interact with each other, including how they choose mates. The researchers say that as they learn more about how these enzymes are controlled, the findings could be applied to many parrots around the world, from Australia’s crimson rosellas to the burrowing parrots of Argentina.

“It would be interesting to see what sorts of changes at the DNA level underlie coloration differences within and between different species of parrots“, Cooke said.

The researchers were supported by the National Institutes of Health.