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

By: Jennifer Bouchenot | Mentor: Frank Logiudice


As zoos become more numerous the challenge for keepers to ensure animal well-being and identify adverse behaviors becomes immense. Intelligent animals in captivity have a higher likelihood of participating in selfharm activities compared to their wild counterparts. Feather picking in birds is one such adverse behavior characterized by the individual breaking or removing feathers and, in severe cases, excision of the skin. This behavior increases the susceptibility to sickness and infection. In this study, a feather-picking captive Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) was observed preening, resting, and displaying self-mutilating behavior. Collected data were compared with a second non-mutilating specimen. The feather-picking animal was an imprinted education animal while the nonfeather picker was a non-imprinted display bird. The featherpicking vulture was medicated with Gabapentin, a drug typically used for neuropathy with anecdotal evidence for treatment of self-mutilation in birds. In addition, this bird was briefly housed adjacent to a Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) as a potential remedy for feather picking. From the results of this study, a recommendation is made to mitigate this alarming behavior by adjacent or near exhibition with a similar bird.

KEYWORDS: black vulture; Coragyps atratus, self; mutilating; injurious; feather; picking; crested caracara; captivity

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