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Tiffany YNA 2012

Tiffany

Grade: 7 | State: California

Comparison of a Parrotlet’s Seed Preference

tiffany-gilligan

My Test Subject, Gilligan the Parrotlet


One day I was at my best friend’s house and her mom’s pet parrotlet, Gilligan, was entertaining us by singing. During his “performance,” he periodically went down and ate his food mixture. I was watching him sort through his dish, trying to find the seeds he wanted, when I thought of the idea to do a science project on parrotlets to determine their favorite seed. After finding out what seeds were in his food mixture, I thought of the question: Do parrotlets prefer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or oat groats? I decided to design an experiment to find out the answer. 

Hypothesis

I hypothesized that if you give a parrotlet a choice of sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or oat groats, it will choose sunflower seeds because sunflower seeds are higher in fat and therefore tastier than the other seeds.

Background Research

Parrotlets have recently become a very popular pet. They are adorable, intelligent, playful, and affectionate. Most parrotlets are bundles of energy, and they spend hours swinging, climbing, playing with toys, and interacting with their owners. Parrotlets can live 15 to 20 years if they are well fed, kept clean, not exposed to other birds, and protected from accidents (Molenda 1992).

The parrotlet I am studying is a male Pacific parrotlet. This type of parrotlet is the most well-known and popular species of parrotlet. They are almost five inches in length and weigh approximately 30 grams. Both males and females are a basic olive green. The males have a cobalt-blue streak of feathers extending from the eye, as well as cobalt blue on their bottom and wings (Molenda 1992).

Parrotlets are very active birds, and they require a great deal of high-quality fuel. According to veterinarian Sandee L. Molenda, a fresh, high-quality seed or pellet diet is necessary. When providing a seed diet, it is good to provide limited amounts of sunflower and hemp seed. Whether fed seeds or pellets, parrotlets still require fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens daily. Parrotlets thrive on a basic diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, greens, sprouted seed, whole wheat bread, cooked rice, pasta, potatoes and dried beans. I have researched the seeds I am using in my experiment, and the following table compares the nutritional value of them (www.fatsecret.com, www.sparkpeople.com). 

  Oat groats (1 ounce) Safflower Seeds (1 ounce) Sunflower Seeds (1 ounce)
Calories 108 147 162
Fat 2.8 g 10.9 g 14.05 g
Protein 5.67 g 4.59 g 6.46 g
 

As seen in the table above, sunflower seeds are the highest in fat while safflower seeds are slightly lower. Oat groats are a healthier option since they contain much less fat. Sunflower seeds have the most protein, but oat groats and safflower seeds are also good sources of protein. According to veterinarian Margaret A. Wissman, safflower seeds are a more bitter-tasting seed, so most birds will consume fewer of them compared to sunflower seeds. I am curious to see if Gilligan will follow this same trend.

Materials

  • 1 pet parrotlet
  • 1 cage for the parrotlet
  • 3 small identical bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • 1½ tablespoons oat groats
  • 1½ tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons safflower seeds
  • 1 small towel
  • 1 clock

Procedure

  1. tiffany-procedure-set-up

    Procedural Set-Up


    First, I got three small identical bowls and labeled one bowl with “oat groats,” another with “sunflower seeds,” and the last with “safflower seeds.”
  2. Next, I measured ½ tablespoon of oat groats, counted them, and poured them in the bowl labeled “oat groats.”
  3. After that, I measured ½ tablespoon of sunflower seeds, counted them, and poured them in the bowl labeled “sunflower seeds.”
  4. Then I measured ½ tablespoon of safflower seeds, counted them, and poured them in the bowl labeled “safflower seeds.”
  5. Next I placed a small towel on the bottom of the parrotlet’s cage to make it easier to collect unused seeds. Then I put the three bowls containing seeds on the towel in the cage and closed the cage door.
  6. I left the bowls in the parrotlet’s cage for three hours.
  7. After three hours, I carefully folded the towel, removed it from the cage, and placed any loose seeds in their original bowl.
  8. Then I counted and recorded the number of seeds left in each dish. Each kind of seed was documented, as well as the percentage eaten, in its own table (Tables 1-3).
  9. I repeated the experiment two more times and compared the average percentage of each type of seed eaten for the three trials in Table 4. 
 

Variables and Sample Size

The variable I am testing is the amount of each type of seed eaten by the parrotlet. There was no control variable due to the nature of the experiment. My sample size was three trials, and I had three types of seed in each trial.

Results

Table 1: Percentage of Sunflower Seeds Eaten by Parrotlet Over Three Trials

  # of seeds put in
the bowl at the
beginning
# of seeds left in
the bowl after
the experiment
# of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
% of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
Trial 1 30 22 8 26.7%
Trial 2 30 17 13 43.3%
Trial 3 30 9 21 70.0%

Table 2: Percentage of Safflower Seeds Eaten by Parrotlet Over Three Trials

  % of sunflower seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
% of safflower seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
% of oat groats eaten by
the parrotlet
Trial 1 26.7% 46.7% 49.4%
Trial 2 43.3% 15.5% 41.3%
Trial 3 70.0% 37.8% 58.6%
Average 46.7% 33.3% 49.8%
 

Table 3: Percentage of Oat Groats Eaten by Parrotlet Over Three Trials

  # of seeds put in
the bowl at
the beginning
# of seeds left in
the bowl after
the experiment
# of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
% of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
Trial 1 90 48 42 46.7%
Trial 2 90 67 23 15.5%
Trial 3 90 56 34 37.8%
 

Table 4: Percentage of Each Type of Seed Eaten by the Parrotlet

  # of seeds put in
the bowl at
the beginning
# of seeds left in
the bowl after
the experiment
# of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
% of seeds eaten by
the parrotlet
Trial 1 162 82 80 49.4%
Trial 2 162 95 67 41.3%
Trial 3 162 67 95 58.6%
 
tiffany-bar-graphs

tiffany-seed-dishes-before

Seed Dishes Before Trial 1: Oat Groats, Safflower Seeds, Sunflower Seeds


Analysis

As Gilligan ate the different seeds (sunflower, safflower, and oat groats), the averages show that oat groats were the seeds he ate the most. He started out eating 49.4% of the oat groats in Trial 1, and then declined to 41.3% in Trial 2 before increasing to 58.6% in Trial 3. The parrotlet ate more than 40% of the oat groat seeds in each trial, showing that it was the seed most consistently eaten. My results show that the number of sunflower seeds eaten increased with each trial. He ate 26.7% of the sunflower seeds in Trial 1, and his consumption increased to 43.3% in Trial 2. In Trial 3, sunflower seeds were the seeds he preferred over all the others, with 70% eaten. Safflower seeds were the least favored seeds eaten by the parrotlet. In Trial 1, 46.7% were eaten, and in Trial 2, his safflower seed consumption declined dramatically, to 15.5%. His safflower seed consumption then increased to 37.8% in Trial 3. Overall, the parrotlet ate more oat groat seeds than sunflower and safflower seeds. 

tiffany-seed-dishes-2

Seed Dishes After Trial 1: Oat Groats, Safflower Seeds, Sunflower Seeds


Conclusion  

I reject my hypothesis because I said the parrotlet, Gilligan, would eat more sunflower seeds than the other two types of seeds because sunflower seeds are higher in fat. However, Gilligan preferred oat groats to the other two types of seeds because they are sweet, and parrotlets enjoy sweet foods (Wood 2009; Chuddler 2006). Safflower seeds were never his preference because they are bitter, and parrotlets avoid bitter tastes (Wissman 2006). The sunflower seeds are sweeter than safflower seeds but not as sweet as oat groats so they were eaten as well, and he increased his consumption of sunflower seeds in each trial.

Although I made every effort to be precise, my experiment had some potential faults. A possible error in my experiment was that some of the seeds Gilligan ate were partially eaten, and I was not always sure whether to count them or not, thereby altering my results. In future experiments I would weigh the seeds rather than count them because then I would know more precisely how much he ate of each seed and would not have to worry about the partially eaten seeds. Another possible error was that the size of the seed varied in each trial. He might have eaten more of one seed in one trial and less of that seed in another trial because if they were smaller then he could eat more of them without getting too full. In future experiments I would choose seeds with similar size.

It would be interesting to study this subject further. For a future experiment I would use multiple parrotlets instead of just one. I realize my sample size was small because I had access to only one parrotlet. It would be interesting to compare what they eat and see if I would get the same results with a larger sample size. In future experiments, I would also expand my research to test different types of seeds like millet seeds, hemp seeds, and crackled corn.

Bibliography

Chuddler, Eric H. “Do Birds Have a Sense of Taste?” 2006. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21 November 2011. http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/qa3.html#q41.

“Foods: Nutrition Facts.” 2009. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21 November 2011. 
http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/dried-safflower-seed-kernels.

Molenda, Sandee L. “Parrotlets—Petite Parrots in a Pint-Sized Package.” 1992. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21 November 2011. http://www.internationalparrotletsociety.org/intro.html.

“Nutrition Facts.” 2011. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21 November 2011. 
http://www.sparkpeople.com/calories-in.asp?food=oat%2Bgroats.

Wissman, Margaret A. “20 Things You Must Know About Nutrition.” 2006. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 10 December 2011. http://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/20facts.html.

Wood, Rebecca. “Be Nourished With Rebecca Wood.” 2009. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 3 January 2012. http://www.rwood.com/Recipes/Oat_Groats.htm.

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