Study Finds Parrots Prefer Live Video Calls With Other Parrots Over Pre-Recorded Videos

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A new study by researchers at University of Glasgow has found that pet parrots prefer video calling other parrots over watching pre-recorded bird videos.

Animal-computer interaction specialists provided nine parrots and their caretakers with tablets to explore how video chats might expand the social lives of the birds, a press release from University of Glasgow said.

“Our previous research had shown that parrots seem to benefit from the opportunity to video-call each other, which could help reduce the mental and physical toll that living in domestic situations can take on them,” said lead author of the paper Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas of the School of Computing Science at University of Glasgow in the press release. “In the wild, they live in flocks and socialise with each other constantly. As pets, they’re often kept on their own, which can cause them to develop negative behaviours like excessive pacing or feather-plucking.”

The results of the six-month study suggest that these intelligent creatures — who are often lonely being confined in human residences — can distinguish between live and pre-recorded digital content, but much prefer to interact in real time with other birds.

The parrots in the study initiated calls to other birds much more often than they chose to watch pre-recorded videos.

The birds also appeared more engaged when chatting live. They spent a lot more time on bird-to-bird calls than watching a variety of videos.

“In this study, we wanted to see if we could identify differences in behaviour when parrots were given agency over what they could see on their devices. Would they notice when the pre-recorded parrot on the screen didn’t respond the same way a live one did? And if so, what could that tell us about designing future systems to fit their needs?” Hirskyj-Douglas said in the press release.

The findings of the study could influence the developing “animal internet,” which gives animals the chance to interact with each other, as well as humans, in new ways using digital technology.

On the tablets given to the parrots’ caregivers were large colorful buttons with pictures of other birds in the study. The parrots were trained to indicate when they wanted to start calls on Facebook Messenger by ringing a bell.

Following introductions of the birds via video chat, they were given access to 12 sessions of a total of 36 hours. A maximum of two calls was allowed during each session for up to three hours.

Six sessions connected parrots with another bird from the study, while the other six were a pre-recorded video of one of the contacts. Following each session, caregivers recorded parrots’ reactions.

Overall engagement varied, but the parrots spent 4.43 minutes on average with other live birds and 2.77 minutes watching the recorded videos. They spent a total of 561 minutes on live chats and 142 minutes watching recorded content.

Of a possible 108 live calls, the birds initiated 65. However, in the pre-recorded part of the study they only watched 40 videos. During the live calls, they reached their limit of two calls 46 percent of the time, but opted for two pre-recorded videos just one-quarter of the time.

Caregivers reported that the parrots seemed to be more engaged during live calls, frequently moving closer to see their chat companion, as well as mirroring each others’ behavior. On the other hand, it was reported that birds appeared less interested in the pre-recorded videos. Some birds refused to initiate calls, while others flew quickly away from the screen.

“Working closely with caregivers to design the study has given us new insight into how these intelligent birds react to the complex stimulus digital tablets can provide,” Hirskyj-Douglas said in the press release. “The appearance of ‘liveness’ really did seem to make a difference to the parrots’ engagement with their screens. Their behaviour while interacting with another live bird often reflected behaviours they would engage in with other parrots in real life, which wasn’t the case in the pre-recorded sessions. Some caregivers believed that their parrots were capable of differentiating between the sessions. One told us that their bird enjoyed vocalising with another live bird but quickly lost interest when there was no response to their calls during pre-recorded videos.”

Caregivers said the study helped them feel more engaged and closer to their parrot, with 77 percent saying they thought their bird had a positive response to the live chats and 70 percent expressing observations of a positive reaction to the pre-recorded videos.

“This was a small study, and we can’t draw any definite conclusions at this stage about whether the parrots were in some way aware of the differences between live and pre-recorded interactions. However, the results are compelling, and suggest that further study is definitely warranted,” Hirskyj-Douglas said. “The internet holds a great deal of potential for giving animals agency to interact with each other in new ways, but the systems we build to help them do that need to be designed around their specific needs and physical and mental abilities. Studies like this could help to lay the foundations of a truly animal-centred internet.”

The paper, Call of the Wild Web: Parrot Engagement in Live vs. Pre-recorded Video Calls, will be presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Honolulu from May 11 to 16.

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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