Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


PARROTS LOVE TO FLOCK TOGETHER as part of their social, cognitive, and emotional needs. Yet, as reported by Sarah Kuta in Smithsonian Magazine, April 24, 2023, “… when kept as single pets, they may become lonely and bored.” 

Not any more: “Scientists Taught Pet Parrots to Video Call Each Other—and the Birds Love It.”

Ellie, an 11-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, video chats with a friend. Image by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University in Smithsonian Magazine. 

The Objective. Kuta notes, “Lonely parrots are unhappy parrots, so researchers set out to find a way for some of the estimated 20 million pet birds living in the United States to connect with each other. They recruited volunteers from Parrot Kindergarten, an online training program for parrot owners and their beloved pets.”

The Methodology. Rebecca Kleinberger and her associates describe their Birds of a Feather Video-Flock Together: Design and Evaluation of an Agency-Based Parrot-to-Parrot Video-Calling System for Interspecies Ethical Enrichment, published in Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 2023. Indeed, the researchers stress the importance of involving the pet’s human pals in this socialization process. 

Initially, four parrots took part in a pilot project. (A good term, eh?) These were a Goffin’s cockatoo, female, age 9, an African grey (male, age 11), a Sengal (male, age 20), and a cockatiel (male, age 1). Later, 15 parrots continued in “Meet-and-Greet” and then “Open Call” phases. 

Kuta describes, “During the first two weeks of the study, owners taught their birds to ring a bell, then touch an image of another pet parrot on a tablet screen to initiate a video call. In this initial phase, the participating birds made 212 video calls while their owners carefully monitored their behavior. Owners terminated calls as soon as the birds stopped paying attention to the screen and capped their duration at five minutes.”

These and other images from Kleinberger et al. 

In the Open Phase, Kuta says, “the 15 participating birds could make calls freely; they also got to choose which bird to dial up. Over the next two months, pet parrots made 147 deliberate video calls to other birds. Their owners took detailed notes about the calls and recorded more than 1,000 hours of video footage that the researchers analyzed.”

This instructive (and charming) YouTube describes the activities

Researchers’ Conclusions. Kleinberger and her associates summarized, “Following a pilot experiment and expert survey, we ran a three-month study with 18 pet birds to evaluate the potential value and usability of a parrot-parrot video-calling system. We assessed the system in terms of perception, agency, engagement, and overall perceived benefits.”

“With 147 bird-triggered calls,” the researchers continued, “our results show that 1) every bird used the system, 2) most birds exhibited high motivation and intentionality, and 3) all caretakers reported perceived benefits, some arguably life-transformative, such as learning to forage or even to fly by watching others. We report on individual insights and propose considerations regarding ethics and the potential of parrot video-calling for enrichment.”

My Own (Extremely Modest) Research. A decade ago, when introduced to My Talking Tom, pal Bob DeAvila and I experimented with two Toms talking to each other, iPhone to iPhone.

I recognize that the parrots’s interactions are vastly more intellectual than ours, but it was certainly a good giggle. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: