Smart Parrots Use Touchscreen Technology

Smart Parrots – Can Parrots Really Use Technology?

Yes, it’s true! Birds have been exploring and learning ways to play with touchscreen technology as part of an international research study. This study focuses on examining whether the ways in which animals, especially smart parrots, respond to new things influences how eager they are to explore.

This new discovery looks at how a number of factors affect the speed and frequency with which the birds investigate new objects that they have never seen before. The study was carried out by researchers from the Messerli Research Institute (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna) and the University of Vienna in Austria. Also, the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and University of Lincoln, UK.

It has generally been assumed that neophobic species (species that do not like new things) have a tendency to explore less than those that do, those being neophilic species.  An example of neophilic parrots would be the Kea parrot in New Zealand. They have been known to destroy cars because they are so interested in new things!

The results from this extraordinary study reveal that the neotic style of a bird (how neophobic or neophilic an animal is) has an impact on when they choose to explore new objects, but not on their level of exploration. Those who are more neophobic (known to not like to try new things) carry out the same amount of exploration, but simply make the approach much later. The results also show that juvenile animals explore more quickly than adults do.

The scientist involved in this study found that individual differences and characteristics seem to be much more important than species-level differences in determining how eager a bird is to explore. This suggests that noetic style is not, as is frequently assumed, a result of the challenges faced by an entire species. Instead, it appears to differ depending on, simply, the individual parrot or bird.

Smart Parrots - Eclectus Parrot Male _ Eric Kilby _ Flickr

As part of the study, these smart parrots and crows were introduced to a touchscreen which revealed two different coloured shapes on a regular basis. They were then trained to understand that choosing one of the shapes (by pecking it) could result in a food reward. The researchers showed each bird 16 pairs of shapes, and throughout the task introduced a few novel stimuli that they had never seen before. The researchers measured how quickly they responded to the new shapes, and at which point in the test they chose to investigate them.

Dr. Anna Wilkinson, a specialist in animal cognition from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, explained: “Rather than its species, we found that individual differences have a significant impact upon how quickly a bird begins to explore. This is likely to be due to a combination of the bird’s age, its individual position in the social hierarchy, and its own previous experiences.”

The subjects featured in this study were from nine different species from parrot and crow. They were selected to represent different ecological backgrounds so that factors such as the likelihood of pressure from predators could also be taken into account. For example, species originating from islands such as Goffin’s cockatoos and vasa parrots are less likely to face pressure from predators than those such as ravens, jackdaws and African grey parrots, which are much more widely distributed.

As part of the study, researchers worked with Eclectus parrots from the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park to assess their reactions.

The first author of the study, Dr. Mark O’Hara from the Messerli Research Institute and the University of Vienna, said: “Our findings allow for a more accurate interpretation of behaviour and the processes which control responses to changes in the environment.”

The full paper, The temporal dependence of exploration on noetic style in birds, is published in Scientific Reports and is available to read online.

This post was first published at: https://phys.org/news/

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