Parrots Love Making Video Calls to Each Other

Interactions made lonely birds happier, researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2023 3:10 PM CDT
Video Calls Make Parrots Less Lonely
"All the participants in the study said they valued the experience, and would want to continue using the system with their parrots in the future," said study co-author Dr. Jennifer Cunha   (Getty Images/JillLang)

There are an estimated 20 million pet parrots in American homes and researchers say they might be happier if they could call each other sometimes. In the wild, the birds live in large flocks but as pets, they are normally alone or in small groups, the Guardian reports. Researchers taught 18 parrots how to use a tablet to make video calls to each other. To do so, they had to ring a bell and choose a picture of another parrot to initiate a call lasting a maximum of five minutes. The researchers say the parrots made a total of 147 calls to each other over the course of the three-month study. The birds seemed to grasp that they were dealing with other parrots and they began to display more social behavior, like singing and preening.

Study co-author Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas says the parrots interacted in a variety of ways. "I was quite surprised at the range of different behaviors," Hirskyj-Douglas says. "Some would sing, some would play around and go upside down, others would want to show another bird their toys." Some parrot owners said their birds learned new skills from their friends during the calls, including foraging and new vocalizations, Northeastern Global News reports. Participants said the contact with other parrots left their birds happier and better-behaved.

Researchers say some birds strongly bonded with each other, including two elderly male macaws. They had barely seen another macaw in their lives before the study, but they ended up "dancing and singing enthusiastically together through the screen and calling, “Hi! Come here! Hello!” whenever one or the other moved out of the video frame," per Northeastern. Researchers say video calls definitely appear to improve the quality of parrots' lives, though they warn that the birds are choosy about whom they respond to. They say the technology was introduced gradually and the parrots were closely monitored by experienced handlers. (More parrot stories.)

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