Budgies Also Yawn (contagiously)

The 2011 Ig Nobel Physiology Prize was awarded to Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of The Netherlands, Hungary, and Austria), Isabella Mandl (of Austria) and Ludwig Huber (of Austria) for their study “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”

However, although Red-Footed Tortoises don’t seem to contagiously yawn, many other animals do. And the list of those species which have been experimentally proven to do so is growing. The latest addition (May 2015) being budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus).


“Yawning in response to sensing or thinking about the action in others may represent a primitive form of empathy. Despite the potential importance of identifying various non-human species showing this capacity, comparative investigations of contagious yawning have been limited. These two experimental studies reveal the presence of contagious yawning in budgerigars in a controlled laboratory setting, corroborating a previous observational report assessing the temporal distribution of yawns in an undisturbed flock.”

‘Experimental evidence of contagious yawning in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)’ is awaiting publication in the print version of Animal Cognition.


[1] The paper reminds us that, along with Red-Footed Tortoises, there are other animals which have yet to be scientifically proven to be (or not to be) contagious yawners. They include Bonobos, Orangutans and Gorillas.

[2] New research suggest that psychopaths tend not to contagiously yawn (as much).