Behaviour Pets

Alexandrine Parrots – Why they’re named after Alexander the Great

Everyone knows Alexander the Great but does everyone know “The Great Alexandrine” named after him?

What’s the deal with Alexandrine Parrots?

Alexandrine Parrots, or Alexandrine Parakeets, are known for their stubbornness and self-know superiority. They know what they do and don’t like, and will forcibly let you know.

In saying that, when you are the “chosen one”, usually male Alexandrines prefer the female in the household and the female Alexandrines prefer the male in the household, the parrot will show great affection and be more patient.

Keep that in mind if you decide to buy one of these beautiful birds, and make sure you buy a bird who is the opposite sex to you. In that way, your partner will be in awe of the parrot’s devotion to you instead of them.

The male Alexandrines can be distinguished by the black ring around the neck which appears at roughly two years of age.

Behaviour and lifestyle

Alexandrine Parrots easily amuse themselves when there is no human interaction by biting wooden toys, talking, or whistling to themselves. They love grazing through their food bowl with a tendency to pick out their favourite snacks.

If you’re looking at adopting an Alexandrine Parrot you must invest in a large bird cage due to their tail and wingspan, otherwise they will be unable to move around the cage effectively and can become destressed. Their environment plays a huge part on their health and mood.

You must be aware that some days an Alexandrine will be your best friend and the next day will want to bite your finger off. Yes, these birds are very prone to mood swings!

Many owners of Alexandrine Parrots will state their mood depends on “what side of the bed he/she woke up on”.

Why are Alexandrine Parrots named after Alexander the Great?

Alexandrine Parrots have the characteristics of a great leader, which you will quickly come to notice in their company.

They will always be by your side through thick and thin, testing your inner self, but always rewarding you with their beautiful and clever presence.

Once you really get to know your Alexanderine you will come to realise why he/she is named after Alexander the Great. 

Behaviour Psychology

Animals who mate for life

It’s not only humans that are monogamous. There are lots of creatures in the animal world who mate for life.

Some animals have been found to pine and die shortly after a death of a mate, which although sad, shows animals can love each other.

Here is a list of 10 animals who manage a monogamous relationship which many humans find impossible:

  1. Gibbons – These are reportedly the closest primate to humans and studies have proven that the relationship with their mates is also very similar to ours. Gibbons will sit for hours grooming each other (the equivalent to humans sitting on the sofa holding hands), and an established pair will remain faithful to each other for life.
  2. Swans – Often found swimming in pairs, occasionally with several babies in tow, swans have been used to symbolise romance and love on many valentine cards. However romance is not necessarily the reason swans mate for life. It might be a simple case of survival as they share the work of raising their young. The male can look for food whilst the female keeps the eggs and subsequently the chicks safe from predators.
  3. Black Vultures – A look that only a mother can love, or maybe another Black Vulture. There is a strong social structure within the Black Vulture community and any philandering by one of an established pair is swiftly dealt with by others in the group.
  4. French Angelfish – These beautiful creatures, once bonded, are rarely out of sight from one another and will feed, swim and hunt for food in their pairs. Although they are faithful to each other, they are not sociable and will not tolerate other pairs in their territory.
  5. Wolves – Contrary to popular believe a pack of wolves is not a random number of males and females, but a family of mother father and children. As they cubs grow, they too find their own mate for life and move on to form another pack. Packs can live quite closely to each other but do not form a firm bond, much like humans and their neighbours.
  6. Albatross – These birds do not live together, known to fly great distances, once they have bonded with a mate, they will always return to that same mate when it is time to breed. They are famed for their mating dance which is performed each time the pair are reunited.
  7. Termites – Who would have thought it? But this isn’t a warm romantic relationship, some species die shortly after mating, making the lifetime relationship very short indeed.
  8. Prairie Voles – Are the champions of the equal partner relationship. Sharing everything from child rearing to building a nest and hunting, prairie voles work together for the good of the family.
  9. Turtle Doves – Made famous by Shakespeare and are an emblem of love and romance which is celebrated every Christmas; Turtle Doves, once paired will rarely be seen alone.
  10. Bald Eagles – These birds remain monogamous for life but will take another partner if one dies. Even impotency will result in the female looking elsewhere.

This is not a comprehensive list of animals who mate for life, but it gives you an indication animals can be monogamous.


Interesting facts about animal sleep

For humans and animals alike sleep comes in two parts, REM and non REM (Rapid Eye Movement).

Non REM sleep happens when we are in a light sleep, and therefore even the slightest noise can wakes us.

As we slip into REM sleep we begin to dream and it becomes more difficult to be woken by outside influences.

To have a restful night’s sleep humans need to go through both of these sleep phases, animals however do not.

So how do animals have a good night’s sleep?

Here are some fascinating facts about the sleeping habits of our pets and other animals:

  • It will probably come as no surprise to cat lovers that cats sleep on average 13-14 hours a day. This leaves them fresh and alert for their night-time prowls. The same is true of cats in the wild, like lions and tigers who hunt at night.
  • Dolphins have the best of both worlds, only half their brain sleeps at any one time, so they can function perfectly even though they are also having an good night’s sleep. Dolphins do not experience full REM sleep.
  • Horses and Cattle are capable of sleeping standing up, but in doing so do not experience REM sleep. However, they do slip into REM sleep if they are lying down.
  • Giraffes need very little sleep, only minutes each day, and will take this rest standing up. They are known to lie down occasionally but this is to rest not to sleep. Giraffes will only do this if they feel very safe, because laying down puts them in an extremely vulnerable position if there are predators around.
  • A Desert Snail probably has the easiest life in the world because he can sleep for up to three years, and when he is awake he moves very little. A Desert Snail can live for up to 15 years, which means he spends a high percentage of his life asleep.
  • The Platypus spends up to 14 hours a day sleeping and spends more time in REM sleep than any other mammal. However, despite being asleep his body will “play out” the action of killing prey in order to deter predators. How clever is that?
  • African Baboons probably have the most uncomfortable sleeping position of all the animals so far – they sleep in the treetops on their heels.
  • Bats, as we all know sleep during the day and are active at night. Like their fictitious vampire counterparts, we all know bats sleep hanging upside down from eaves or branches in their roost. A lesser known fact, however, is why bats sleep upside down – it’s because they cannot take off and fly from a stationery position. Instead, they need to fall to fly which gives them the necessary lift to escape predators.
  • Ever wondered how an Albatross can travel so far? It’s because they’re able to sleep whilst flying.
  • The award for the most naps in a day has to go to your friendly Fire Ants. It would appear they never sleep, but studies have shown they have up to 253 power naps each day, each lasting little over 1 minute.

I hope you enjoyed those interesting facts about how animals sleep as much as I did.

Animal Welfare Behaviour Management Research Wildlife

Microbats & Bat Facts

Facts About Bats!

Western Broad-nosed Bat Pups
Western Broad-nosed Bat Pups
  • Bats have existed for at least 55 million years.
  • Bats can consume half their body weight in insects per night during the warmer/summer months. Pregnant bats can consume up to their entire body weight in insects per night in the warmer/summer months.
  • Microbats go into ‘torpor’ during the cooler/colder months from approximately May to August.
  • Flying-foxes do not go into torpor so need to feed and drink all year around.
  • Bats must not be disturbed when in ‘torpor’/hibernation as they can lose their energy/fat supply which has been stored/built-up ready for the winter, resulting in the eventual death of the bats.
  • Microbats are our most environmentally-friendly pest exterminators feeding on many mosquitoes, beetles, flies, moths, and many, many more insects.
  • Flying-foxes are one of our essential night pollinators and long-distance ‘native tree’ planters/foresters.
  • Bats generally live to between 5-10 years but can live up to 20 – 30 years. A small Myotis Fishing Bat has been recorded living approximately 41 years!! (Susan Barnard – Bats in Captivity Volume)
  • Bats can hang upside down by their feet, with little effort. It takes more effort for a bat to release the tendons in its feet to fly away.
  • The word ‘Chiroptera’ – the Order of Bats – means ‘hand-wing’. Microchiroptera (sub-order) relates to our microbats. Megachiroptera (sub-order) relates to our megabats, for example, the Flying Foxes/Fruit/Blossom Bats.
  • Bats have incredible membranes in between their elongated fingers. They do have a thumb and four fingers.
  • Bats have varying tails, for example, a tail which is enclosed fully within the membrane like the Gould’s Wattled Bat. The Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat has half its tail enclosed in the tail membrane. The White-Striped Freetail Bat and the Southern Freetail Bat have a ‘free-tail’ with minimal tail membrane. The Flying Foxes have no tail.
  • The rare Ghost Bat can be viewed at the Adelaide Zoo. These Ghost Bats are part of the Australasian Regional Zoos Program. The Adelaide Zoo has had reasonable success with breeding Ghost Bats, and have bred 17 individuals in the past 10 years.
  • The most commonly ‘heard’ bats around Adelaide are the White-Striped Freetail Bat and the Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat (due to humans only being able to hear at approximately 20khz and below).
  • The most commonly ‘rescued’ bats are the Gould’s Wattled Bat, the Lesser Long-eared Bat, the Southern Freetail Bat, the Chocolate Wattled Bat.
  • Bats are placental mammals giving birth to live pups/young just like humans do and only have 1-2 babies per year if that! Twins are common in some species of Microbats.
  • There are presently 8 common species, 6 rare species and 1 endangered species.

Diet, Habitat & Behaviour

Microbats consume approximately half their body weight in insects per night over the warmer/summer months. They are our natural pest-controllers. Their diet is full of many types of insects, including mosquitoes, moths, beetles, flying ants, caterpillars and flies.


Microbats are nocturnal. They are warm-blooded, placental mammals. They live in tree-hollows, under loose/exfoliating bark, in old sheds, in caves, and also co-exist with humans in their homes, for example, in roof spaces and wall linings without any concerns in general.

In the cooler months, between May to August, our bats go into torpor, similar to hibernation. They must not be disturbed during these cooler months. If they are disturbed, they can lose their precious fat storage/supplies that they have built up ready for their slumber, and possibly die as a consequence.

Microbats are very secretive little creatures. We need to respect their privacy and let them go about their business – eradicating all those pest insects the natural way!

Threats To Our Bat Populations

Humans seem to be the major threat to bats!  We are taking away their habitat daily. We are cutting down trees which provide homes for these little nocturnal mammals (tree hollows take approximately 100 years to develop!).

We use too many pesticides in our parks and gardens. Remember our bats eat some of these insects that have been poisoned!

Our domesticated cats and dogs can also bring these little mammals inside to show us what they have caught like they do with mice and baby birds!

Here are some reasons why bats in Australia require rescue and human help:

  • They are brought in by domesticated cats and dogs
  • They are brought in because they are found on the ground/exposed during the day (this is not where they should be)
  • They have fractures to their very delicate bones, generally to the forearm
  • They have torn membranes – wing damage
  • They have been electrocuted/severe burns
  • They have Alopecia – fur/hair loss
  • They are Anaemic
  • They are about to give birth
  • They are very thin
  • They are still pups – baby bats are called pups
  • They can land in dog/animal water-bowls and swimming pools and need assistance and drying out before they can be released that evening (depending once again on weather conditions/season, and condition of the bat).  They have come down for a drink and, unfortunately, cannot fly back out again once water-logged

Usually though, a short time in care can see bats released back into their natural habitat.

Cats especially will pierce the skin/tear membranes and will generally infect the bat as cats carry many bacteria on their teeth.  Immediate Veterinarian attention is necessary to help save the bat.  Please go to for the CatBib which can help prevent cats from killing our wildlife.

Disturbance to bats during Autumn and Winter when they are hibernating/in torpor can kill many bats.  So please stay away from caves, especially, where many cave-dwelling bats will colonise and torpor during the colder months.

On occasions, bats are found in homes (roof spaces/wall linings), sheds (under hessian bags or horse blankets), roosting in/on machinery and other cosy, warm spots!  Please do not disturb or handle them.  Please contact us for assistance.

Natural causes including drought, storms and climate change are impacting on bat populations, especially, the Southern Bent-wing Bat which is now endangered within South Australia!   This species is critically endangered around Australia!!  Further reading is available on the Southern Bent-wing Bat of the Naracoorte Caves. 

Please contact James Smith, FauNature for further advice on bats co-existing with people and the benefits of artificial roost boxes.

The Ghost Bat, Australia’s largest carnivorous echolocating bat, was recorded in the past (prior to 1970) around the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.  This bat is a threatened ‘vulnerable’ species, restricted to caves and abandoned mines. This species is now restricted to Tropical Northern Australia.  Destruction and disturbance have caused their numbers to dramatically decline (Sue Churchill –  ‘Australian Bats’ – Second Edition).  Zoos SA – Adelaide Zoo – have been part of the Australasian Regional Zoo Conservation Program for over ten years with reasonable success, having bred over 17 individuals during this period of time.  The lifespan of the Ghost Bat is approximately 15 to 20 years.

Echolocation – ‘Seeing with Sound’!

Bats emit a high-frequency call when searching for their insects. The call is emitted from the mouth and nose of the bat. The sonar pulses/signals emitted are returned to the bat as an echo, giving the bat the information of the size of insect and its location. Most bat sonar pulses are beyond the range of human hearing.


Two Adelaide bats are within our range of hearing, these being:

  • Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris)
  • White-striped Freetail Bat (Tadarida australis)

There is a lovely book available now through CSIRO –  ‘BATS – Working the Night Shift’.

This is an excellent book if you wish to learn more about Echolocation and anything else about our beautiful Australian bats!  Dr Greg Richards and Dr Les Hall are the wonderful authors.

Bat Conservation International also have an Educational Manual called ‘Discovering Bats’ which has a very informative section on Echolocation.

Microbat Care & Rehabilitation Process

We assess the bat for any injuries, and have Veterinarians who can assist us promptly with treatment and medications.

Depending upon the injury, some of the bats that have come into care go back to where they came from within a few days. Unfortunately, many require euthanasing due to their terrible injuries.

Only a small number of microbats are kept in permanent care if they are unable to be released back into the wild.   Specialised Permits must be obtained from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to care for these specialised mammals.

In care, our orphaned pups receive Wombaroo Insectivorous Bat Milk Replacer (a wonderful South Australian product). Our juvenile and adult bats are offered mealworms, moths, crickets and woodies in general.  Supplementary additives such as Wombaroo Insect Booster (new product line), Wombaroo Small Carnivore/Insectivore Mixture and Missing Link (Omega 3 Supplement) are also provided as a medium/gut-loader for our insects prior to feeding to our bats. Visit Wombaroo for more information on these wonderful products!  

Fresh water is also a necessity daily as bats do enjoy, and require, their drinks of water.

Case Study: Gould’s Wattled Bats


This is a photograph of mum (middle) and twin male Gould’s Wattled Bats born in care.

These twin males were approximately 6 weeks of age in this photograph. The twins were born on 4 November 2007.

By approximately 3 months of age, these pups are weaned from their mother’s milk and are independent, out in the night sky catching their own insects.

Further Reading

For some excellent Resources on caring for orphaned pups, please refer to Basically BatsBatworld Sanctuary and the other wonderful carers listed under the Links & Bat Books / Educational Brochures sections.

Releasing Microbats back into the Wild

Bats MUST be able to fly extremely well before being released back into the wild.

They must be eating well.

Artificial roost boxes are provided for those bats that are to be in care for a longer period so when the time comes for release, their new/alternative home can be fixed to a nice tall tree. These boxes need to be fixed at 4 metres or more to avoid predation by cats and foxes. They require a clear flight path.

For further informative information on roost boxes, please visit FauNature, the Australasian Bat Society and our Links page.

Case Study: Western Broad-nosed Bat


This is a photograph of a Western Broad-nosed Bat (Scotorepens balstoni), juvenile female weighing just 5 grams!

Found exposed in the daylight on the ground. Tiny hole in wing membrane but otherwise quite healthy but still a youngster.

She was in care for two weeks before being released on a delightfully warm night with plenty of insects and century-old Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum) hollows to choose from.

She flew away into the night.  Sweet little one!

Behaviour Cognition Pets Research

Is your dog optimistic? Cognitive bias in animals

Does your pet have a glass half full, or glass half empty take on life?

It’s a recent discovery that many animals can be optimistic or pessimistic based on their experiences.

Dr. Melissa Starling holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and recently gained her PhD from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney with a topic that covered elements of dog behaviour, personality, emotions and cognition.

She has long had a passion for animal behaviour and animal training that has intensified as she learns more.

In this episode, we talk to Mel about her PhD research investigating optimism and pessimism – or cognitive bias – in dogs.



Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., Starling, T. R., & McGreevy, P. D. (2014). Developing an optimism index using results from a cognitive bias taskJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research9(6), e17-e18.

Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., Starling, T. R., & McGreevy, P. D. (2014). Canine Sense and Sensibility: Tipping Points and Response Latency Variability as an Optimism Index in a Canine Judgement Bias AssessmentPloS one9(9), e107794.

Starling, M. J., Branson, N., Cody, D., & McGreevy, P. D. (2013). Conceptualising the Impact of Arousal and Affective State on Training Outcomes of Operant ConditioningAnimals3(2), 300-317.

McGreevy, P. D., Starling, M., Branson, N. J., Cobb, M. L., & Calnon, D. (2012). An overview of the dog–human dyad and ethograms within itJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research7(2), 103-117.

Dr Melissa Starling - Cognitive Bias in Dogs
Dr Melissa Starling – Cognitive Bias in Dogs


Melissa Starling on Twitter (@dogoptimism)

Creature Teacher (personal website)

Dog Optimism on ABC Catalyst

Video – Optimism in Dogs (Melissa Starling)

Optimism in Dogs

Cover image: Flickr/hoodsie

Behaviour Cognition

Emotions, memory and social networks – of Goats

“Do goats have emotions?” is something rarely searched for on Google, but if you think about it, it’s a very good question.

The answer is yes, goats do have emotions.

Believe it or not, they also have social networks, puzzle solving skills, and impressive long term memories?

We’re not even kidding! Alan McElligott is based at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London, where he and his team research cattle, fallow deer, and goats.

In this episode, we talk about their recent work, and how it contributes to improved understanding of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology, raising important considerations for animal husbandry and welfare of goats in companion animal, livestock and pest contexts.

It’s time to learn about the emotions of goats!



Dr. Alan McElligott - Do goats have emotions?
Dr. Alan McElligott

Briefer, E. F., Tettamanti, F., & McElligott, A. G. (2015). Emotions in goats: mapping physiological, behavioural and vocal profiles. Animal Behaviour99, 131-143.

Briefer, E. F., Haque, S., Baciadonna, L., & McElligott, A. G. (2014). Goats excel at learning and remembering a highly novel cognitive task. Frontiers in zoology, 11(1), 20.

Briefer, E. F., & McElligott, A. G. (2013). Rescued goats at a sanctuary display positive mood after former neglect. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 146(1), 45-55.

Briefer, E. F., de la Torre, M. P., & McElligott, A. G. (2012). Mother goats do not forget their kids’ calls. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0986.

Alan McElligott: Google Scholar profile with further publications


Alan McElligott: research website

Alan McElligott on Twitter

Goats, the boffins of the farmyard (BioMed Central)

Happy goats: How animal rehab works (BBC News)

Header image: Flickr/tcmorgan

Behaviour Research

The importance of bees: more than honey

Ever wondered why you should care about bees?

Here’s a fact: bees are responsible for the successful production of around a third of the food you eat.

As one of our oldest domesticated animals, bees and people share an amazing history.

But the future is uncertain, with devastating global declines in both feral and managed populations.

Boris Baer and Barbara Baer-Imhoof, in conjunction with their colleagues at the Centre for Integrative Bee Research at the University of Western Australia, are researching many aspects of honey bees, in the field and in the lab.

In our first episode featuring an invertebrate species, we learn more about our relationship with bees, what would happen if they vanish and ways we can help them thrive.


Video – More Than Honey Trailer

Bees! More than Honey trailer


Boris Baer & Barbara Baer-Imhoof – The importance of bees. Photo: Andrew Ritchie

Stuerup, M., Baer-Imhoof, B., Nash, D. R., Boomsma, J. J. & Baer, B. When every sperm counts: factors affecting male fertility in the honeybee Apis mellifera, . Behav. Ecol. 24(5): 1192-1198. View online at Behavioral Ecology.

Baer, B. (2009) CIBER: A new research initiative for the study of honeybees in Western Australia. The Australian Beekeeper. 111:16-17. 

Imhoof B., Schmid-Hempel, P. 1999. Colony success of the bumble bee, Bombus terrestris, in relation to infections by two protozoan parasites, Crithidia bombi and Nosema bombi. Insectes Sociaux 46: 233-238.


Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER)

CIBER on Facebook

Header image: Flickr/StephenBegin


Aggressive behaviour in dogs: science that bites

Dr Rachel Casey is a veterinary surgeon, animal behaviourist and welfare scientist working at the University of Bristol Veterinary School in the United Kingdom.

Rachel has a PhD in animal behaviour and leads a research group investigating aspects of companion animal behaviour and welfare.

Her recent research on aggressive behaviour in dogs has highlighted important new information regarding prevalence, risk factors and occurrence in difference contexts.

The findings might not be what you expect.



Rachel Casey’s Blog: Reigning Cats and Dogs

Follow Rachel on Twitter:  @DrRachelCasey


Casey, RA, Loftus, BA, Bolster, C, Richards, GJ & Blackwell, E-J 2013, ‘Inter-dog aggression in a UK owner survey: prevalence, co-occurrence in different contexts and risk factors’Veterinary Record, vol 172.

Casey, RA, Loftus, BA, Bolster, C, Richards, GJ & Blackwell, E-J 2013, ‘Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): occurrence in different contexts and risk factors’Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Bradshaw, J, Blackwell, E & Casey, R 2009,Dominance in domestic dogs: useful construct or bad habit?’Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, vol 4., pp. 135 – 144

Why do dogs bite? The science behind aggressive behaviour in dogs

Image credit: Flickr/FredArmitage

Behaviour Pets

A duty of care: shelter dog rehoming assessments + science

In this episode, Kate Mornement, PhD candidate from the Anthrozoology Research Group and Monash University, talks to Mia and Tim about her research exploring the science of shelter dog assessments for rehoming suitability.

Shelter dog rehoming is a topic with significant outcomes for everyone: our communities, shelter staff, and of course – the dogs.


How many dogs are in shelters in Australia?

In Australia we do not have a national system for tracking the number of dogs in animal shelters or municipal council pounds.

An estimated 200,000 or more dogs enter a pound or shelter annually in Australia, and many of these dogs (approximately one in three) are euthanised.


What Do Current and Potential Australian Dog Owners Believe about Shelter Practices and Shelter Dogs? (2012) Anthrozoos 25 (4): 457-473

A Review of Behavioral Assessment Protocols Used by Australian Animal Shelters to Determine the Adoption Suitability of Dogs (2010) Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 13(4): 314-329

Development of the Behavioural Assessment for Re-homing K9′s (B.A.R.K.) Protocol (2014) Applied Animal Behaviour Science 151: 75-83. 

Image credit: Flickr/DustinQuasar