Parrots love video chats, say scientists conducting research on parrot intelligence.
Scientists have found that parrots need social connection and mental stimulation. They then wondered whether parrots would welcome video chats to satisfy their need for sociability.
Rebecca Kleinberger, a researcher at the Northeastern University in Boston, America, enrolled 18 parrots and their human owners in an unusual experiment to see if the parrots would connect with their owners and other parrots over video calls.
First, the owners taught their parrots how to request a video call. When a parrot rang a bell, the owner would give the parrot a tablet or a phone with photos of other parrots participating in the same experiment. If the parrot tapped on one of the photos of the other parrots, the owner would place a call to that parrot.
Rebecca Kleinberger said that the notion of choice was important in the experiment.
When the parrots learned the request system, researchers found that the parrots began requesting more calls to other parrots. Most of them seemed to be interested and engaged, tracking their video partners across the screen and peering behind the phone when the screen parrot disappeared from view. The parrots mirrored each other’s behaviour – such as singing together and preening their feathers together.
Some of the parrots quickly developed favourite friends to call.
The research scientists raised issues about the ethics of the technology, and advised the human owners to keep the duration of the parrot calls short and to end the calls if they see signs of parrot discomfort or distress.
The results showed that the technology has promise to be used in ‘very individual’ ways.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM