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The Myth of the Psittacine Flock Leader

Spreads for web Parrots 278 4

Complete Psittacine by Eb Cravens

It is still common for some pet parrot owners to refer to an apparently dominant bird in their house or in the wilds as a principal “flock leader” that somehow stands above the rest of the group and directs their movements or activities out of authority and superior intelligence. In fact, this belief was once so commonplace in various pet circles that whole training methods and explanations for captive parrot behaviour were being based upon such an assumption.

Yet it is in reality something of a myth. All my observations of wild bird flocks, including psittacines, along with wildlife video footage and study with my own and others’ flocking parrots here in Hawaii, convince me that there is really no such thing as a ‘flock leader’ as described by some bird behaviour analysts.

Oh, of course there are dominant psittacines in each flock, those with greater strength and athleticism or stronger aggressive tendencies in a general pecking order sort of way. And certain individual birds in a flock are obviously more intelligent, instinctively wary or wise, and decisive in their actions. But to claim they lead their brethren in more than cursory or momentary situations is to not understand the flock dynamics as a whole.

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