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Performance on the Hamilton search task, and the influence of lateralization, in captive orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica)

Authors
  • Cussen, Victoria A.1
  • Mench, Joy A.2
  • 1 University of California, Davis, Animal Biology Graduate Group, Davis, CA, 95616, USA , Davis (United States)
  • 2 University of California, Davis, Department of Animal Science and Center for Animal Welfare, Davis, CA, 95616, USA , Davis (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Animal Cognition
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Dec 27, 2013
Volume
17
Issue
4
Pages
901–909
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10071-013-0723-y
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Psittacines are generally considered to possess cognitive abilities comparable to those of primates. Most psittacine research has evaluated performance on standardized complex cognition tasks, but studies of basic cognitive processes are limited. We tested orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica) on a spatial foraging assessment, the Hamilton search task. This task is a standardized test used in human and non-human primate studies. It has multiple phases, which require trial and error learning, learning set breaking, and spatial memory. We investigated search strategies used to complete the task, cognitive flexibility, and long-term memory for the task. We also assessed the effects of individual strength of motor lateralization (foot preference) and sex on task performance. Almost all (92 %) of the parrots acquired the task. All had significant foot preferences, with 69 % preferring their left foot, and showed side preferences contralateral to their preferred limb during location selection. The parrots were able to alter their search strategies when reward contingencies changed, demonstrating cognitive flexibility. They were also able to remember the task over a 6-month period. Lateralization had a significant influence on learning set acquisition but no effect on cognitive flexibility. There were no sex differences. To our knowledge, this is the first cognitive study using this particular species and one of the few studies of cognitive abilities in any Neotropical parrot species.

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