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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Barn Swallow "Mama"  
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
 » Just Another Golden Eagle  
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
» Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ...  
» Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
» Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
» Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
 » A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets a nd Canopy Feeding 
 »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
» Hospital Halucinations 
» What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher 
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 

From a Budgie's Point of View 
By Lynne Page

Comments in the study: From “Perception of the Conspecific Faces by Budgerigars(Melopsittacus undulatus). II Synthetic Models.” By Susan D. Brown and Robert J. Dooling: Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 107, No 1, March 1993, pp 48-60

Bird Show Standards

No activity that brings hundreds of together to talk about birds can be all bad; but I confess that showing birds does not interest me. While my greatest fear would be the spread of disease, I think I can trace my negative feelings back over a decade to the first articles I read about show standards and preparation. While some of the standards were eminently sensible, others seemed arbitrary. Nobody has ever explained to me, for example, why it should be considered a great fault for a bird’s flight feathers to cross when his wings are folded. What really struck me as funny, though, were instructions for plucking and trimming a budgie’s tiny feather’s to perfect his necklace spots. For that reason, one line in this article on budgies’ perception of faces repaid me amply for wading through the statistics and difficult to interpret results – one page 54 it states, “Spots may matter to breeders, but they may not to budgerigars.”

More Sensitive to Budgie Faces

This article builds on at least two earlier studies which together has shown that budgies can distinguish between two birds only when their faces are visible and that budgies are “more sensitive to differences among budgerigar faces than to differences among the faces of another avian species (pg.48)

Here the researchers used computer-generated budgie faces to test how sensitive budgies were to differences in particular facial features. The four budgie subjects (two males and two hens) were first taught to peck a key when shown two projected images that were NOT the same. The birds were then shown two faces that were identical except for one feature. The investigation assumed that the more quickly the test subjects correctly pecked the key indicating that the faces were different, the more obvious that particular differing features must be to the birds.     

Testing the Responses

Five facial features were tested in the following ways: 

1. COLOR OF THE FACE Three facial colors were tested: bright yellow, pale yellow, and white. The subject budgies were very sensitive to these differences in facial color (In wild budgies. facial color may vary in intensity according to the geographical region a budgie inhabits.) 

2. COLOR OF THE CERE Both the male and female budgies easily discriminated between a face with a dark blue cere (as a mature male would have) and one with a dark pinkish-brown cere (as a mature female would have). Paler ceres (like those of juvenile birds) could also be distinguished but not as quickly. The reaction times of the males were faster than of the females for this feature, perhaps because, as the initiator of courtship, the male has more need to identify adult females. 

3. IRIS COLOR AND CONSTRICTION OF THE PUPIL In wild-type budgies, a juvenile bird has a dark iris, while an adult’s iris is white. As in many parrots, an excited bird’s pupil will constrict, revealing the iris color. These characteristics seemed to be a bit less obvious to the tested birds than the first two, with the darkness of the iris appearing to be more important than the constriction of the pupil. The females were more sensitive than the males to the “pinned eye.” This makes sense, as eye pinning is usually a male display performed for the female. 

The test subjects apparently did not distinguish between faces differing only in the size or number of throat spots. Spots on wild budgies tend to be less obvious than on domestically bred birds and seem to convey no important information (such as sex or age). 

5 HEAD STRIPES The budgies seemed to have no difficulty distinguishing between a face with the striped crown of a juvenile and an “adult” face without the stripes. The authors conclude that budgies can most easily recognize differences in those facial characteristics that “convey useful biological information”. (p. 58) Facial color may indicate colony membership, cere color indicates sex and maturity, and head stripes indicate age. And those throat spots, shared by all birds and subject to change with each molt, don’t seem to mean much at all, at least not to the birds. 

A Different Kind of Bird Show? 

This gives me an idea. Could we have a bird show in which the winners are chosen by other birds? 

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