Parrot-to-Parrot: Video Chat with Friends

African gray parrot looks at computer screen (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3 May 2023

Wild parrots live in flocks and interact with each other all the time but pet parrots often have lonely isolated lives that lead to psychological problems and self-damaging behaviors. We know that video chats help people connect over long distances. Could parrot-to-parrot video chats enrich the pet birds’ lives? The answer “Yes!” was presented at the ACM SIGCHI conference last month.

A research team from Northeastern University, MIT and the University of Glasgow, who study the potential of technology to enrich the lives of pets and zoo animals, enlisted 18 pet parrots and their caregivers in a three-month-long study to connect the parrots to each other online. Even in such a short time the birds became so engaged that they and their caregivers did not want to stop when the study ended.

During the first two weeks, the parrots were taught to ring a bell and touch a screen image of another parrot so that their caregiver would start a video chat with the selected bird.

African gray parrot plays with a bell (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the second phase, which lasted two months, the birds were given free reign to request and make calls whenever they wanted. The birds quickly developed favorite video-chat friends with whom they talked, sang and preened. “Parrots who made the most calls also received more calls, suggesting that the study helped the birds become more social. Their caretakers also reported improved bonding with their pets.” —

A parrot in the study video-chatting with Rosie (screenshot from Birds of a Feather Video-Flock Together video)

Here’s how the parrots made friends online.

video from NowThisNews on YouTube

The results were quite exciting in some households.

“We saw some really encouraging results from the study. The parrots seemed to grasp that they were truly engaging with other birds onscreen and their behavior often mirrored what we would expect from real-life interactions between these types of birds. We saw birds learn to forage for the first time, and one caregiver reported that their bird flew for the first time after making a call,” said co-author Dr. Jennifer Cunha who is co-founder of Parrot Kindergarten, Inc. that helped to recruit and train the parrot caregivers for the study. Video-calling tech could help lonely parrots flock together

Watch a 9-minute video of the study plan and techniques at ACM SIGCHI: Birds of a Feather Flock Together project.

Read more at Video-calling tech could help lonely parrots flock together.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons and screenshot from ACM SIGCHI video, click on the captions to see the originals)

One thought on “Parrot-to-Parrot: Video Chat with Friends

  1. So interesting. I hope this catches on and more people try it. Thank you Kate for enlightening me on this!

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