University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Self-Injurious Behavior of a Captive <i><i><i>Coragyps atratus</i></i></i>
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Self-Injurious Behavior of a Captive
Coragyps atratus

By: Jennifer Bouchenot | Mentor: Frank Logiudice


Over the course of the study, a medicated Coragyps atratus exhibiting featherpicking behavior was observed at the Central Florida Zoo. Preening frequency and resting times were recorded over several days while environmental events were noted. When compared with observations of a non-feather picking Coragyps atratus in captivity, several key differences were found. Among them is that the non-feather picking Coragyps atratus rested less than the feather picking Coragyps atratus. Resting averages were stagnant for the duration of the day for the non-feather picker while the feather picking bird's average resting increased throughout the day. The feather picking Coragyps atratus also manipulated feathers, preening or feather picking, 20% less than the control Coragyps atratus.

The feather picker was administered Gabapentin twice daily, resulting in side effects including drowsiness, which may have influenced resting times. If another solution were found to mitigate the self-destructive behavior, Gabapentin would not be required, which would save the facility money and free up staff time for other tasks. The only occasion where self-mutilation was interrupted was during the adjacent enclosure with a C. cheriway. Full integration into a single enclosure may not be possible, but the socialization and familiarity of another similar conspecific may have helped reduce the anthropomorphic induced feather-picking seen in the Coragyps atratus at the Central Florida Zoo.


I would like to thank Mr. Frank Logiudice for the opportunity to perform this study and his continuing mentorship. I would also like to thank the Central Florida Zoo and the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey for their gracious support and providing their specimens for use in this study.