Behavioral research: Parrots want to make phone calls – knowledge

Not that the Germans are neglecting their parrots: the animals are entitled to a cage with a diameter of at least two meters and of sufficient height for a short flight. They should have a companion for company and plenty of toys to distract themselves. Researchers have now discovered astonishingly late that the clever and talkative birds are still missing an essential item of modern life: the telephone.

“So far, efforts have been made to enrich the cognitive environment when keeping parrots,” explained the team led by Rebecca Kleinberger from Northeastern University and the MIT Media Lab in Boston in a joint statement Video presentation on the occasion of a current conference on human-computer interactions in Hanover. “But there was a lack of offerings for social and emotional stimulation.” A single companion cannot replace the flocks in which birds live in the wild.

They groomed themselves, showed playful behavior and began to sing

The solution seems obvious, especially after Corona times: parrots could interact via video telephony, which would also have the advantage that they would not come into contact with dangerous fungal spores or bacteria, which are often spread by the birds.

In cooperation with the “Parrot Kindergarten” from Florida, the researchers actually managed to teach a total of 18 parrots the basics of screen telephony in a three-month training course. They scientifically documented the success of their efforts in around 1,000 hours of video material.

In the first two weeks, the macaws and cockatoos learned in a “meet-and-greet” phase that a picture gallery of other parrots ready to talk would light up on a touchpad when they responded to the command “Hit the bell!” consequences. And they quickly understood that they could communicate with their peers. They showed signs of well-being typical of parrots: they groomed themselves, showed playful behavior and began to sing. Sometimes they tried to beak with the person opposite the screen.

In the following weeks, the animals learned that they could select a specific conversation partner by clicking on their beaks, although the study staff sometimes helped a little: “Do you want to call a friend? Do you want to call Rosie?” The trick worked. In total, the researchers registered 147 targeted calls. They learned that social activity is definitely worthwhile: those birds that called their friends particularly often were also called back more often.

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