Social Media… for Parrots?
Parrots are highly social birds and those kept as pets can get lonely without a parrot pal, resulting in the lack of fulfillment of the birds’ social, mental, and emotional needs.
However, a second pet parrot may not solve the problem as they frequently carry diseases that can be passed among parrots. “In-parrot” interactions don’t always fulfill the cognitive needs of parrots, who have the puzzle and memory skills of six- and seven-year-old human children.
Researchers from Northeastern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Glasgow found that parrots responded favorably to a “parrot-parrot video-calling system.” A parrot social media of sorts to allow “birds of a feather to video-flock together.”
18 parrots initiated 147 calls themselves, with every bird using the video call system and most birds showing “high motivation and intentionality.” All of the parrots seemed to benefit according to caretakers and some learned life-skills including learning to forage and fly by watching their friends on video calls.
Some of the birds liked the video interaction so much that they continued to initiate calls with other parrots after the study was over. Researchers believe that the video social network could reproduce the “social benefits of living in a flock, even between parrot species.”
1. What are the benefits of social media for humans? Could those benefits translate to animals? Explain your answer(s).
2. What are the downsides of social media for humans? Could those downsides also impact animals? Explain your answer(s).
3. Could animals benefit from other technologies such as artificial intelligence? Explain your answer(s).
Rebecca Kleinberger, Jennifer Cunha, Megha M Vemuri, and Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, “Birds of a Feather Video-Flock Together: Design and Evaluation of an Agency-Based Parrot-to-Parrot Video-Calling System for Interspecies Ethical Enrichment.,” dl.acm.org, Apr. 2023
Jonaki Mehta and Patrick Jarenwattananon, “Lonely Pet Parrots Find Friendship through Video Chats, a New Study Finds,” npr.org, Apr. 29, 2023