Experimental evidence of contagious yawning in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)

Abstract

Experimental evidence of contagious yawning has only been documented in four mammalian species. Here, we report the results from two separate experimental studies designed to investigate the presence of contagious yawning in a social parrot, the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus). In Study 1, birds were paired in adjacent cages with and without visual barriers, and the temporal association of yawning was assessed between visual conditions. In Study 2, the same birds were exposed to video stimuli of both conspecific yawns and control behavior, and yawning frequency was compared between conditions. Results from both studies demonstrate that yawning is contagious. To date, this is the first experimental evidence of contagious yawning in a non-mammalian species. We propose that future research could use budgerigars to explore questions related to basic forms of empathic processing.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to specifically acknowledge Anne B. Clark, Michael L. Miller, and Andrea Vogel for contributing to the experimental design of Study 1. ACG is also grateful for all the fruitful discussions on contagious behavior in budgerigars that took place in the Bird Yawning Lab at Binghamton University.

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Correspondence to Andrew C. Gallup.

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Gallup, A.C., Swartwood, L., Militello, J. et al. Experimental evidence of contagious yawning in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). Anim Cogn 18, 1051–1058 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-015-0873-1

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Keywords

  • Yawning
  • Contagious yawning
  • Empathy
  • Avian cognition