Silva de Souza Matos, L., Palme, R., Silva Vasconcellos, A. 2017. Behavioural and hormonal effects of member replacement in captive groups of blue-fronted amazon parrots (Amazona aestiva). Behavioural Processes 138, 160-169.
Social species in captivity may face allostatic overload due to artificial grouping and other social constraints. In rescue centres, groups of psittacines are constantly mixed due to the arrival and/or release of individuals; this procedure is potentially harmful to animal welfare. This study aimed at evaluating the possible impacts of mate replacement on the stress levels of captive blue-fronted amazon parrots (Amazona aestiva). During five weeks, we recorded agonistic interactions and dropping-glucocorticoid metabolites (GCM) concentrations of individuals allocated in a group whose members were kept constant and in a group subjected to frequent member replacement. In both groups, non-linear hierarchies developed, without sex differences regarding aggression or hierarchical positions. The replacement of individuals had no effect on the number of agonistic interactions or on the animals’ stress levels. In both groups, higher-ranking individuals had higher stress loads than subordinates. Our study, the first to investigate the social dynamics of A. aestiva, indicated thatintroducing or removing individuals in captive groups does not seem to affect the welfare of the birds in the short term. This information favours release and reintroduction programs and is relevant for conservation management of this, and possibly other parrot species with similar environmental requirements.