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Posted: 3rd May 2024

Parrots prefer to video-call than watch videos, study finds
The parrots enjoyed vocalising with and mirroring their online friends.
The findings could lead to an ‘animal internet’.

A new study has suggested that pet parrots might prefer to video-call each other, rather than watching pre-recorded videos of other birds.

Researchers say that this could mean that these clever birds can identify the difference between live and pre-recorded content.

The project, led by animal-computer interaction specialists from University of Glasgow, involved nine parrots receiving tablet devices to use. It aimed to explore the potential for video calls to stimulate the birds’ social lives, and prevent loneliness.

The parrots and their caregivers, were given tablet devices which had large bright buttons, featuring contact images of other birds in the study. The birds were then trained to make calls on Facebook Messenger by ringing a bell when they wanted to interact.

The study began with an online ‘meet-and-greet’ session, where the birds were introduced to each other over video chat.

The parrots were then each given open-access to the system, across 12 sessions. They could make two calls each session, for a maximum of three hours.

In six of these sessions, the birds were put in touch with another online parrot for a chat. However, for the other six, they were connected to a pre-recorded video of their bird contacts.

Their care-keepers then recorded their reactions.

Throughout a six-month study, parrots frequently chose to start video calls with other online birds. In fact, they called other birds more often than watching pre-recorded footage.

The parrots initiated 65 calls during the ‘live’ phase of the study, but only 40 calls when it connected them with pre-recorded content.

They also seemed to become more engaged with the video calls. Despite a library of pre-recorded content, they spent much longer on live calls, vocalising with and mirroring other birds.

Birds often flew away from the recorded videos, or refused to play them altogether.

In total the birds spent 561 minutes on live calls, and just 142 minutes watching recorded content.

The findings suggest that parrots are capable of distinguishing pre-recorded content from live calls, and much prefer the latter.

Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, the lead author from University of Glasgow, said: “The internet holds a great deal of potential for giving animals agency to interact with each other in new ways, but the systems we build to help them do that need to be designed around their specific needs and physical and mental abilities.

“Studies like this could help to lay the foundations of a truly animal-centred internet.”

The full study can be found in here .

Image © Shutterstock

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