Parrots Learn to Make Video Calls With Each Other

A fascinating study conducted by Ilyena Hirskyj, Rebecca Kleinberger, and Jennifer Cunha found that parrots can learn how to make a video call with another parrot with gentle training by their humans.

Over 20 million parrots are kept as pets in the US, often lacking appropriate stimuli to meet their high social, cognitive, and emotional needs. After reviewing bird perception and agency literature, we developed an approach to allow parrots to engage in video-calling other parrots. Following a pilot experiment and expert survey, we ran a three-month study with 18 pet birds to evaluate the potential value and usability of a parrot-parrot video-calling system. 

The study, which took place over three months, showed how these birds learned how to indicate their desire to place a call, how the birds communicate with each other, and what they learned from each other. The study also demonstrated how the parrots formed friendships and developed a virtual flock of sorts, staving off individual loneliness.

We assessed the system in terms of perception, agency, engagement, and overall perceived benefits. With 147 bird-triggered calls, our results show that 1) every bird used the system, 2) most birds exhibited high motivation and intentionality, and 3) all caretakers reported perceived benefits, some arguably life-transformative, such as learning to forage or even to fly by watching others.

The study was presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Hamburg, Germany, on April 24, 2023.

via Smithsonian

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.