Scientists Taught Pet Parrots to Video Call Each Other—and the Birds Loved It

041023 mm jennifer cunha 012‘… they found that the parrots took advantage of the opportunity to call one another, and they typically stayed on the call for the maximum time allowed during the experiment. They also seemed to understand that another live bird was on the other side of the screen, not a recorded bird, researchers say. Some of the parrots learned new skills from their virtual companions, including flying, foraging and how to make new sounds.


“I was quite surprised at the range of different behaviors,” co-author Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, an animal-computer interaction researcher at the University of Glasgow, tells the Guardian’s Hannah Devlin. “Some would sing, some would play around and go upside down, others would want to show another bird their toys.” Two weak, older macaws, for example, became very close and even called out to one another “Hi! Come here! Hello!” from their respective screens.


The birds forged strong friendships, which researchers measured by how frequently they chose to call the same individual. Parrots who initiated the highest number of video calls also received the most calls, which suggests a “reciprocal dynamic similar to human socialization,” per the statement.


The experiment also brought parrots and humans closer together—on both sides of the screen. Some birds were even reported to have developed attachments to the human caretakers of their virtual friends….’

— Sarah Kuta via Smithsonian Magazine

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