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Contrafreeloading—working to access food that could be freely obtained—is rarely exhibited and poorly understood. Based on data from Grey parrots ( Psittacus erithacus ), researchers proposed a correlation between contrafreeloading and play: that contrafreeloading is more likely when subjects view the task as play. We tested that hypothesis by subjecting a relatively more playful parrot species, the kea ( Nestor notabilis ), to the same experimental tasks. Experiment 1 presented eight kea with container pairs holding more- or less-preferred free or enclosed food items, and examined three types of contrafreeloading: calculated (working to access preferred food over less-preferred, freely available food); classic (working to access food identical to freely available food); and super (working to access less-preferred food over preferred, freely available food). At the group level, the kea behaved similarly to the Greys: They signifcantly preferred calculated contrafreeloading, performed classic contrafreeloading at chance, and signifcantly failed to super contrafreeload. However, overall kea engaged in more contrafreeloading than Greys. Experiment 2 examined a potentially more ecologically relevant task, a choice between shelled and unshelled walnuts. No kea contrafreeloaded for nuts, whereas two of fve Greys signifcantly preferred nut contrafreeloading and one chose at chance. We examine proximate and adaptive explanations for the performances of these diferentially playful parrot species to further elucidate the role of play in contrafreeloading.


This work was originally published in Scientific Reports, available at

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