Parrots in captivity seem to enjoy video chatting with their friends on Messenger

Parrots are naturally social creatures. In captivity, where they don’t usually have a flock to interact with, this can present some real challenges to keeping them happy and healthy. But recent research suggests that technology may be able to help them meet more of their social needs. a Led by researchers at University of Glasgow Northeastern University compared the parrots’ responses when they were given the option to video chat with other birds via Meta’s Messenger versus watching pre-recorded videos. They seem to have a preference for real-time conversations.

The research builds on findings from a series of small studies over the past few years, including one in which the team trained pet parrots to make video calls to each other (with human assistance) and another where they were taught to play tablet games. In the latest experiment, nine parrot owners were given tablets to prepare for their pets, and were then monitored for six months. During that period, the parrots – who were initially introduced to each other via video chat – were able to engage in calls with each other for up to three hours over 12 sessions. Half of these sessions included pre-recorded videos, while the other half were live video chats via Messenger.

Caregivers who recorded the sessions reported that the birds seemed more engaged during live interactions. They initiated more calls in those scenarios, and spent more time on average engaging with birds on the other end.

In each session, the parrots were allowed to make up to two calls, and the researchers found that those talking via Messenger reached this limit 46% of the time, compared to about half that when they were watching pre-recorded videos. Overall, they spent 561 minutes video chatting on Messenger compared to just 142 minutes watching pre-recorded videos.

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“The ‘lively’ appearance appears to have made a difference in the parrots’ interactions with their displays.” Dr. Elena Hercej Douglas said, although it is noted that further study will be needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn. “Their behavior while interacting with another live bird often mirrored behaviors they would engage in with other parrots in real life, which was not the case in the pre-recorded sessions.” However, caregivers mostly reported that live and pre-recorded calls seemed to have a positive effect on the birds.

“The Internet holds a lot of potential to give animals the ability to interact with each other in new ways, but the systems we build to help them do this must be tailored to their specific needs and physical and mental abilities,” the doctor said. Hersky Douglas. “Studies like this can help lay the foundations for a truly animal-centered Internet.”

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