Northeastern Researchers Train Parrots To Video-Chat Parrots

Photo: Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — What happens when you give a parrot an iPad? A groundbreaking new study out of Northeastern and the University of Glasgow finds pet birds can make friends over video.

Researchers trained 18 pet parrots to video-call to each other on iPads, ringing a bell when they wanted to call. Rebecca Kleinberger, a researcher with Northeastern, says they triggered 147 calls, which was 'amazing and unexpected.'

"Every bird had a completely different personality and different way to be part of those calls," Kleinberger said. "Some of them were really quiet and liked to feel comfortable, going close to the screen, preening together, sleeping together. Others were into showing off, showing their feathers and vocalizing in a positive way."

Photo: Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Northeastern Researcher Jennifer Cunha, who runs Parrot Kindergarten, says there was a moment two or three weeks in when a lot of the birds caught on.

"They started calling each other and calling each other, Cunha said. "And for some, they would call so fast. As soon as the bell was there it was like a race to see who would call first, because they seemed to enjoy each other's company so much."

The parrots bonded, some choosing to call the same bird over and over again. Two old, sick macaws, one of whom had never seen another macaw before, called every chance they got, dancing and singing together.

"After the study, they're still doing video calls to this day," said researcher Ilyena Hirskyj Douglas with the University of Glasgow. "What this [study] really starts to tell us is the animals around us that are kept alone or may not have access to as many different species as they wish ... the internet could offer this wonderful possibility to be able to connect."

WBZ NewsRadio’s Madison Rogers (@MadisonWBZ) has more:

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