Have you ever wondered if animals can use technology to communicate with each other? It seems that there’s a possibility for that since researchers from Northeastern University, MIT, and the University of Glasgow were able to teach a group of parrots how to video call through Facebook Messenger, and the results were surprising.
The parrots were able to call each other at will and even demonstrated new skills they learned from their video chat buddies; according to Rébecca Kleinberger, an assistant professor at Northeastern University, “some strong social dynamics started appearing” between the birds during the calls — they mimicked the types of sounds they use in nature to communicate and expressed excitement from the extra attention they were receiving from their caretakers.
The study was conducted to understand and enrich the lives of animals through computer interaction (specifically focusing on parrots due to their remarkable cognitive abilities). While the findings do not replace companionship in the wild, the video interactions can significantly improve a bird’s quality of life, especially for those already living in captivity — for example, two elderly macaws who had rarely experienced contact with another macaw in their lives developed a deep bond during the experiment, singing and dancing together and even calling each other when one moved out of the video frame.
Anyhow, it is essential to note that proper training and monitoring are necessary for these interactions because parrots with strong beaks can easily shatter screens, and unmediated interactions could provoke fear or even damage the devices. While the experiment delivered remarkable results, Kleinberger cautioned against trying this without proper training.
The study is extremely important, shedding light on the cognitive complexity of birds and their ability to express themselves. It also highlights the importance of enriching the lives of animals in captivity through technology, as video interactions can provide a new form of socialization and stimulation. Who knew that parrots could be that smart?! The more you know…