Parrots are social animals. That’s why they don’t always make the best solo pets. However, recently, researchers have given pet parrots a new way to thrive after teaching the birds to use technology to make parrot video calls.
Parrot playtime with video calls
Researchers from Northwestern University, MIT, and the University of Glasgow conducted the study. With the help of some parrot parents, the team successfully trained parrots to communicate with each other.
Over several months, participants taught captive African grey parrots to use a custom-built video-calling system. First, researchers trained the birds to use touchscreens mounted inside their enclosures with easy-to-understand symbols and icons representing different contacts. The researchers rewarded their interactions with food treats. As the birds grew more comfortable with the devices, they were gradually introduced to video calls, first with their handlers and later with other parrots.
Parrots embrace technology
The African grey parrots demonstrated a remarkable ability to learn and adapt to the use of the video-calling system. Not only were they able to initiate calls, but they also showed preferences for specific contacts, indicating that they understood the purpose of the technology and were actively seeking social interaction through the calls.
The study found that the parrots were more likely to engage in video calls when they were alone in their enclosures. This suggests that the video-calling system provided social stimulation and companionship, especially in the absence of human interaction. The introduction of video-calling technology in captive settings could potentially improve the quality of life for these intelligent and social animals.
So, it turns out parrots like to video chat with one another just like humans do, and that it makes them feel less lonely. Many birds in the study stayed on the calls for the maximum allotted time and still choose to call their buddies from the research study over a year later.
According to Northwestern University:
“The most popular parrots were also the ones who initiated the most calls, suggesting a reciprocal dynamic similar to human socialization. And while, in large part, the birds seemed to enjoy the activity itself, the human participants played a big part in that. Some parrots relished the extra attention they were getting from their humans, while others formed attachments for the humans on the other side of the screen.”