Bird Brain

As we go about our daily business, we like our day to be predictable with no nasty surprises, but at the same time, no surprises quickly translates into boredom. The younger we are the quicker that happens. Captivity exacerbates this and we give our contained pets toys to brighten up their day. It is even possible to purchase a football game for your goldfish (although it should be called noseball). Fairhurst and team at U of Sakatchewan, published a study last week on how changing the toys can vary stress levels (1).

               Clark's Nutcracker
                                   photo US Fish & Wildlife

 The focus group were a small flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers and their stress levels were measured by the amounts of Corticosterone in their feathers. They are not used to being confined and normally go wandering around over large distances gathering pine seeds and burying little caches in the ground, so being shut up in a cage with nothing to do would not be their first choice. All were unpaid draftees, I must add.

When given toys such as bells and mirrors, their stress increased until these new and threatening objects were found harmless. Long-term exposure to the toy entertainment brought their stress down and it went back up again when their toys were taken away. If the toys were taken away after the victims had only had a short time to play, they relaxed, which reminds me of my piano lessons as a kid where my stress level went up until I was allowed to give it up. But once I have got used to a toy “you will have to prize it from my cold dead fingers” to quote Chuck Heston.


One Response so far.

  1. Those Poor Nuthatches but scientifically interesting. Too bad they couldn't volunteer.

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