Parrots tend to be "left handed," study finds

Thu Feb 3, 2011 12:49am EST
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SYDNEY Feb 3 (Reuters Life!) - Parrots, like humans, choose to use one side of their body more than the other, with more of them left handed -- or, more precisely, left footed than anything else.

Some species even try out both before deciding on one side.

Australian researchers found that virtually all the parrots they studied prefer to use either their left eye and left foot, or right eye and right foot.

"Basically, you get this very close relationship with the eye that they use to view the object and then the hand that they use to grasp it, and it's very consistent across all the species except a couple," said Calum Brown, a senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, who led the study.

"In some species, they're so strongly right or left handed at the species level that there's effectively no variation."

In the study, published in "Biological Letters," Brown and his colleagues studied roughly 320 parrots from 16 different Australian species to see which eye they used to view potential foods.

Ultimately, they found that roughly 47 percent were left handed, 33 percent right handed, and the remainder ambidextrous.

In addition, in some cases young birds appeared to experiment with both sides before finally settling on one.

"With Sulphur-crested cockatoos -- every single individual we've seen is left-handed. But when you see the juveniles which have just fledged, they're experimenting with both hands, all the time," Brown said.   Continued...