Auk’s Top Cited, #10: The Socioecology of Monk Parrots

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FIGURE 1. Monk Parakeet flocks (A) in flight and (B) perched. Photo credit: Steve Baldwin

Over the next few months we are going to be highlighting the most cited papers from our journals in 2014 and 2015, counting down from number ten to number one. We begin this week with The Auk‘s tenth most cited paper from 2014-15: The socioecology of Monk Parakeets: Insights into parrot social complexity, by E.A. Hobson, M.L. Avery, and T.F. Wright.

Hobson, Avery, and Wright observed both captive Monk Parakeet flocks and wild flocks in Argentina in order to quantify the basic aspects of their social structure and associations, the first detailed account of social structure in any parrot species. They found that pairs were the basic social unit, though these were not always heterosexual breeding pairs, and that fission and fusion of subgroups within flocks was common. Monk Parakeets showed clear dominance hierarchies within flocks and did not share foraging information with each other.

This evaluation of Monk Parakeet socioecology provides methods that can be used to quantitatively understand social structure in other parrots and other social species in general. Some aspects of Monk Parakeet social behavior uncovered by this study are similar to that of corvids, and the authors suggest that the similarities between parrots and other socially complex groups such as corvids and primates make parrots a taxon of potentially great value in the broader study of the costs, benefits, and drivers in the evolution of social complexity.

Read the full paper at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-14-14.1.

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