Moise, R. I., Eccles, G. R., Mettke-Hofmann, C. 2023. Enclosure background preferences differ between sexes and color morphs in the Gouldian finch. Animals 13(8), 1353.

Most wild animals camouflage well into their environment, providing protection from predators, whereas captive animals often contrast with their background. This can cause stress for the animal, which may perceive it as being exposed. Theory suggests that prey is more difficult to detect in front of complex backgrounds; hence, animals should prefer complex over simple backgrounds. We tested this in the polymorphic Gouldian finch by providing a complex background pattern in one half of the flight cage and a simple background pattern in the other half for 10 days (phase 1). Patterns were then swapped and presented for another week (phase 2). Groups of four birds consisting of either pure black-headed or red-headed or mixed head color (two black-headed and two red-headed) pairings were tested. Gouldian finches spent significantly more time in front of the simple background in phase 1 but not in phase 2. Specifically, females preferred the simple background in phase 1 significantly more than males. Moreover, red-headed birds consistently perched in front of the simple background, whereas black-headed birds used both backgrounds, particularly in phase 2. Results indicate that background preferences differ between sexes and morphs, which should be considered when designing backgrounds. Moreover, natural habitat preferences need consideration.

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