Stevens, A., Doneley, R., Cogny, A. et al. 2021. The effects of environmental enrichment on the behaviour of cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) in aviaries. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 235, 105154.
Most research to enrich the environment of psittacines in captivity has focused on foraging. Little is known about the importance of bathing substrates for enrichment of their environment, despite this being a natural behaviour that is rarely possible in captivity. Twelve captive-bred, adult cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) were housed in groups of four in three aviary replicates. An initial choice test determined preferences for different substrates: earth, sand, wood shavings, shallow and deep water. Each substrate was provided in trays on the floor, together with an empty tray as a control. Positions were rearranged daily following a Latin square design. No bathing behaviours were observed but wood shavings, earth and sand were visited most frequently. Shallow water and the control were visited less frequently than wood shavings, and deep water was visited less than any of the other treatments. Thus alternatives to water were chosen to test the effects of substrates on bird behaviour, in particular flying as the aim was to encourage the birds to visit the substrate. In a changeover design with three one-week periods the behaviour of cockatiels provided with wood shavings, earth or a control were compared. Birds in the Wood shaving and Earth treatments flew more to the ground, compared to the Control treatment. This was more often from the wall and faster in the case of the Wood shavings and more often from their perch in the Earth treatment. However, those in the Control treatment flew more from the perch to the wall, with no net difference in total flying. It is concluded that provision of wood shavings or earth will provide an alternative to flying from the perch to the wall, but did not otherwise affect the behaviour of the birds.