Bertin, A., Cornilleau, F., Lemarchand, J. et al. 2018. Are there facial indicators of positive emotions in birds? A first exploration in Japanese quail. Behavioural Processes 157, 470-473.
The positive aspect of emotions, like pleasure, remains overlooked in birds. Our aim was to contribute to the exploration of facial indicators of positive emotions. To observe contrasting emotional expressions, we used two lines of Japanese quail divergently selected on their inherent fearfulness: a fearful line (long tonic immobility duration: LTI) and a less fearful line (short tonic immobility duration: STI). To induce positive emotions, we gave individual quail the opportunity to perform a rewarding behaviour, dustbathing, in an unfamiliar cage. More STI than LTI quail expressed dustbathing and latencies to dustbathe were significantly shorter in STI than LTI quail. This result indicated that the lines of quail differed in their fearfulness of the situation. We observed crown feather height, throat feather angle and pupil surface before (control) and during dustbathing. We found significant increases in crown feather height, pupil area and angle of throat feathers between the control and the dustbathing phases in STI quail, and pupil area correlated positively with crown feather height. In LTI quail, the angle of throat feathers increased during dustbathing, but the other parameters did not differ. We argue that variation in crown feather height and pupil area may provide indications of positive emotions in Japanese quail.