Parrots learn to video chat and make long-distance friends with other parrots

Parrots: They're just like us! Researchers from Northeastern University and University of Glasgow have discovered that parrots can learn to videochat with other parrots who are miles away. Moreover, they use their new skills to call each other—and these videocalls help the parrots develop deeper friendships. Northeastern University explains:

A new study from researchers at Northeastern University, in collaboration with scientists from MIT and the University of Glasgow, investigated what happened when a group of domesticated birds were taught to call one another on tablets and smartphones.

The results suggest that video calls could help parrots approximate birds' communication in the wild, improving their behavior—and, likely, their well-being—in their owners' homes.

Rébecca Kleinberger, an assistant professor at Northeastern; Jennifer Cunha, a parrot behaviorist and Northeastern researcher; and Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, an assistant professor at the University of Glasgow, showed a group of parrots across a range of species and their volunteer caregivers to use tablets and smartphones how to video-call one another on Facebook Messenger.

The researchers then observed how the birds used that newfound ability over a three-month period. They wondered: If given the choice, would the birds call each other?

The answer, relayed in delighted squawks and head bobs, was a resounding yes. "Some strong social dynamics started appearing," Kleinberger says.

Watch Ellie–an 11-year old cockatoo who is participating in the study–in action here. And read more about the study and view more photos of the parrots and researchers here.