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Lonely pet parrots found comfort by learning to video call each other

If you are wondering how to care for pet carrots, you should know that this is not just about feeding them and taking them to the vet when they’re sick.

Looking after pet parrots also means prioritizing their welfare such as easing their loneliness.

When parrots are kept as single pets, they tend to feel lonely just like humans.

This is why researchers looked for a way to connect single pet birds by teaching them how to video call each other.

Over 20 million parrots are kept as pets in the United States alone so researchers wanted to help lessen the loneliness of these birds, which can improve their mental health.

This experiment is not implausible since parrots are known to be very smart and easy to train. If they can be trained to talk, teaching them how to initiate a video call would be a breeze.

However, what the researchers wanted to know through this study was if birds would call each other if given a choice.

The answer to this was a clear “yes.” Researchers from Northeastern Univesity, the University of Glasgow, and MIT found that virtual interactions could help with the behavior of a domesticated parrot and improve their communication skills.

In the first two weeks of the study, the birds learned how to initiate a video call by ringing a bell and touching an image of another parrot on the screen.

The caretakers carefully monitored the birds’ behavior during this stage and ended the call as soon as the birds stopped paying attention or started to show signs of fear or aggression.

“We were really careful about training the birds’ caregivers thoroughly to ensure that they could offer an appropriate level of support to empower their parrots but also help them avoid any negative experiences,” said Rébecca Kleinberger, a co-author of the study.

The next phase, which they call the “open call period”, allowed the birds to make calls freely and pick the bird they wanted to call.

The remaining 15 participants made 147 video calls over the period of three months, which was equal to over 1,000 hours of video footage.

The researchers helped owners learn how to care for pet parrots more by understanding their behaviors. Through this experiment, some birds also learned new skills from their virtual friends such as flying, foraging, and making new sounds.

“I was quite surprised at the range of different behaviors,” co-author Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, said. “Some would sing, some would play around and go upside down, others would want to show another bird their toys.” Two macaws even got really close and called to one another on the screen, saying “Hi! Come here! Hello!”

The study had few significant findings. First, the birds engaged in most calls and formed strong preferences.

It also showed that the birds who initiated the most were the ones who got the most call requests from other birds, which is similar to human socialization.

Most of the parrots became fast friends and a couple of them, a cockatoo and an African grey are still talking to each other after over a year. The birds also developed attachments with their virtual friends’ human caretakers.

The researchers warned owners not to do the same experiment on their own as it should only be done by trained caretakers.

It may cause parrots to become aggressive, scared, or uncomfortable and others have beaks big enough to break a tablet screen.

Though it can’t be a regular occurrence for parrot owners, it is still good to know that lonely parrots now have the option to make friends with other birds virtually.

Watch the birds’ extraordinary virtual experience in the video below:

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Daniel Keeran

Sunday 7th of May 2023

I cannot know the inner life of a bird or of another person.

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