Bertin, A., Mulot, B., Nowak, R. et al. 2023. Captive blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara ararauna) show facial indicators of positive affect when reunited with their caregiver. Behavioural Processes 206, 104833.

In mammals, human-animal bonding is recognized as a source of positive affect for companion or farm animals. Because this remains unexplored in birds, we investigated captive parrots’ perspective of the human-animal relationship. We used a classical separation-reunion paradigm and predicted that variations in parrots’ facial displays and behaviours would indicate their appraisal of the relationship. The test was divided into three phases of two minutes each: the bird was placed in an unfamiliar environment with a familiar caregiver (union), then the bird was left alone (separation) and finally, the caregiver returned (reunion). The test was repeated 10 times for each bird and video recorded in order to analyze their behaviour. The data show significantly higher crown and nape feather heights, higher redness of the skin and higher frequency of contact-seeking behaviours during the union and reunion phases than during the separation phase during which they expressed long distance contact calls. We observed the expression of eye pinning during the union and reunion phases in one out of five macaws. We argue that variation in facial displays provides indicators of parrot’s positive appraisal of the caretaker presence. Our results broaden the scope for further studies on parrots’ expression of their subjective feelings.

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