Article image

Parrots prefer talking live on video calls more than watching videos

Have you ever thought about FaceTiming your feathered friend? It turns out parrots, those amazing mimics with vibrant personalities, love a good video call. Just like us, they prefer the thrill of a live conversation over watching recordings.

A recent study by the University of Glasgow has shown that these intelligent birds might be able to tell the difference between live interactions and pre-recorded ones on digital devices.

This fascinating finding has the potential to completely change the way we use technology to enrich the lives of our feathered companions.

Parrots are social animals

Parrots are naturally highly social creatures. In their natural habitat, they thrive within large, dynamic flocks. This environment provides constant interaction, companionship, and a sense of belonging. Sadly, many pet parrots are kept in solitary conditions, lacking this crucial social stimulation.

When pet parrots are kept in isolation, they are deprived of the opportunity to fulfill these crucial social needs. This deprivation can lead to a range of serious consequences, including:

  • Behavioral problems: Loneliness and boredom can manifest as screaming, feather-plucking, self-mutilation, aggression, and destructive behaviors.
  • Mental health decline: Isolation can lead to anxiety, depression, and a general decline in cognitive function.
  • Weakened immune system: Studies have linked stress and loneliness to compromised immune function, making isolated parrots more susceptible to illness.

Parrots on video calls vs. pre-recorded videos

Researchers equipped nine parrots and their owners with tablet devices, giving the birds the chance to choose between a live video chat with another feathered friend or a pre-recorded video. And the results were incredibly surprising.

The parrots jumped at the chance to initiate live video chats with their buddies, demonstrating much more interest and engagement. The study’s findings clearly indicate several key behaviors:

Increased engagement on video calls

Parrots spent a significantly longer duration on live calls compared to the time they spent engaging with pre-recorded videos. This suggests a greater level of interest and active participation in live interactions.

Video call initiation by parrots

Parrots initiated far more live video calls than requests to watch pre-recorded sessions. This proactive behavior demonstrates the birds’ desire to connect and engage in real-time interaction with another parrot.

Mirroring behaviors

Caregivers observed that during live calls, parrots would often mirror each other’s actions and vocalizations. This natural social behavior is a strong indicator of their engagement with a live counterpart rather than a passive recording.

“Our previous research had shown that parrots seem to benefit from the opportunity to video-call each other, which could help reduce the mental and physical toll that living in domestic situations can take on them,” explains Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, the lead author of the study.

Do parrots understand “live”?

While more research is needed, it seems our feathered friends are smarter than we might think. “The appearance of ‘liveness’ really did seem to make a difference to the parrots’ engagement with their screens,” Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas notes.

This discovery could open a whole new world of possibilities for keeping pet parrots entertained, happy, and better connected to their own kind.

Animal internet

The concept of an “animal internet” – a world where technology bridges communication gaps between humans and animals, and even between animals themselves – is no longer confined to science fiction.

This field is rapidly evolving, with researchers exploring how digital tools can enhance animal welfare, conservation efforts, and our understanding of the animal world.

This innovative study on parrot video calls highlights the importance of tailoring technology to the specific needs and behaviors of different species. Here’s why this approach is crucial:

  • Improving animal lives: Technology designed with a deep understanding of animal behavior can significantly enrich the lives of animals in captivity. It can provide outlets for natural social instincts, alleviate boredom, and promote mental and physical well-being.
  • Aiding conservation efforts: The “animal internet” has the potential to revolutionize conservation. Devices like GPS trackers, remote cameras, and bio-sensors already provide invaluable data for monitoring wildlife populations and protecting endangered species. The potential for real-time communication with and between animals could further transform how we understand and protect our planet’s biodiversity.
  • Promoting inter-species connection: As technology enables deeper interaction and understanding between humans and animals, it could foster greater empathy and respect for the animal kingdom. This could lead to improved animal care practices and a stronger commitment to conservation.

Parrots fighting loneliness, one video call at a time

Parrots are prone to loneliness, which leads to damaging behaviors like feather-plucking and excessive pacing. Imagine a future where pet parrots from across the globe can schedule virtual playdates to combat the downsides of solitary living.

“In this study, we wanted to see if we could identify differences in behavior when parrots were given agency over what they could see on their devices. … And if so, what could that tell us about designing future systems to fit their needs?” asks Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas.

The parrot owners involved in the study were excited about the positive changes they saw in their pets. Many reported that the video calls helped them feel more connected to their feathered friends.

“Some caregivers believed that their parrots were capable of differentiating between the sessions. One told us that their bird enjoyed vocalizing with another live bird but quickly lost interest when there was no response to their calls during pre-recorded videos,” shared Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas.

This compelling study provides a glimpse into the complex minds of parrots and hints at the untapped potential of technology in improving animal lives.

A virtual parrot get-together could be just what your lonely feathered friend needs. Further research will confirm the benefits. Could specially designed “parrot social networks” be in our future? Only time will tell.

Read the entire study here.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day