Congratulation on being pre-selected to participate in the parrot remote communication study!


The aim of this study is to investigate how domesticated pet parrots would use video calls to video call other parrots. While some parrots have had access to video calls for some time, no investigation has been undertaken into how parrots behave with video calls, and if they would choose to make these video calls when given the option too.


This project is a collaboration with Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas from Glasgow University, Jennifer Cunha from Parrot Kindergarten, Inc., and Dr. Rébecca Kleinberger from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at This study has been ethically approved by The University of Glasgow (REF EA11/22; REF 300210172)


Feel free to contact us an any point in the study at


  • June 24 – July 1: Preparation
    • Introduction, consent signing, preparation, group formation, scheduling, and setup  
  • July 1 – July 12: Phase 1 – Meet-and-greet
    • Training on using the bell, introduction to using the tablet, scheduled calls to get introduced to other birds in the group
    • Owner availability: 4 times a week for 30 min sessions, synchronized with other group members.
  • July 12 – July 31: Phase 2 – Open Call
    • The bell is available to the bird for 3h/day for 4 days per week. The birds request calls by ringing the bell
    • Owner availability: 4 times a week for 3h spans with flexibility during which you should be home and able to facilitate potential calls. Calls will be limited to a maximum of 15 min. 


Here is the recording from the introduction meeting on June 24th (password ParrotStudy1!). Feel free to refer to the slides at any point for reference.



  • Physical Items
    • Tablet or cell phone (bird device) your bird feels comfortable, looking/pointing at and touching
    • Second device (phone or camera) to record the interactions
    • Tripod or case with a kickstand for the bird device that allows you to set it down so they can approach and retreat
    • Tripod or support to hold the recording device
    • Toy bell your bird feels comfortable touching (for example our birds like this 5$ one )


  • Apps to install and accounts to setup
    • Personal Facebook account – you’ll be in a group chat with the other caregivers in your friend group
    • Facebook Messenger account with Push Notifications turned on
    • Messenger Kids app installed on the bird device and account created for your bird (for apple and android)
    • Paint App (“Paint Free – Drawing Fun” for android, and “Kids Draw” for apple device)- installed on the bird device to teach your bird to touch the screen 


The “calls” should be done at a location where your bird can come toward/move away from the screen as they feel comfortable, with at least three feet of space for movement. For example:

  • Their cage area
  • A play stand

The selected area should have space to retreat and approach


With a second tablet, cell phone, or mp4 recording device, set the device up to record the entire area, preferably such that it records both your parrot as well as the screen.


Below are a few examples of setup for large or small birds, this also illustrates that for some birds, it might be better to have the interaction from inside the cage if it makes the bird feel safer. These also illustrate that during phase 1, the tablet should be held manually to help the bird feel comfortable and allow for more distance and flexibility during the introduction. When the bird is comfortable and during phase 2, the tablet should not be manually held but placed on a tripod or stand.

These are only suggestions, your setup doesn’t need to look exactly like on these images


Following the introduction meeting, please complete the following 4 action items by Tuesday, June 28th


Once you have selected your location, get everything set up and make a demo video. This way we can make sure you’re ready to meet your First Friend!

  • Step 1: Install Messenger Kids on the bird device and Create an account for your bird, add their photo and name
  • Step 2: Decide on the location for your “friend call” setup area
  • Step 3: Set up your camera on a stand for recording. Make sure it has enough battery (or is plugged) and has enough memory space for a 15min video
  • Step 4: Record a 1-3min demo session of your bird in the setup. You will be holding the bird device with the screen on, stand about 3ft from the bird (it doesn’t matter what is on the screen)
  • Step 5: Send the video using the Diary Form

Additional References and Materials

Bell and messenger training with Ellie – Demo Video

Introduction to new objects – bell training – Demo Video

Friend training – using the tablet – Demo Video 

Messenger Kids Training –   Slides



Sessions take place 4 times a week, arranged directly between group participants

Session 1: 

  • Friend A x Friend B
  • Friend C x Friend D

Session 2: 

  • Friend A x Friend B
  • Friend C x Friend D

Session 3: 

  • Friend A x Friend C
  • Friend B x Friend D

Session 4: 

  • Friend A x Friend C
  • Friend B x Friend D 

Session 5: 

  • Friend A x Friend D
  • Friend B x Friend C

Session 6: 

  • Friend A x Friend D
  • Friend B x Friend C



Post-session diary to fill up after each session by both participants

Video upload link

Teach Bird to Touch Target on Screen – Demo Video 

Teach Bird to Touch Bell – Demo Video

Sample Friend Call Training – Demo Video


After each recorded call/session

Post-session diary to fill up after each session by both participants

Video upload link


Where do I find my bird’s friend?

After two meetings with each new friend, we will coordinate an introduction with your bird’s next friend via Facebook Messenger. Once you have added the new friend, your birds can “meet” through the Facebook Kids Messenger App.

How can I coordinate interaction time with friends?

You can communicate with the others in your group in the group chat on Facebook.

Are there any pre-steps before the birds meet?

Before the birds meet, you and the caregiver for your bird’s first remote partner will do a ‘dry run’ to make sure everything is working. You’ll also do a practice training with the bell and the tablet (without calling the bird partner) and ensure they are feeling comfy with the objects. Be sure to record your practice session with the other caregiver as well as the session with your bird and submit through the portal. We want to make sure everything is set up and good to go!

How do I handle the initial meetings between birds?

  1. Turn on the recording device.
  2. Bell Training:
    • Encourage your bird to touch the bell (and give a treat when they do) – 3 times. (Click here for a quick video demo.)
  3. Tablet Box Partner Training:
    • Encourage your bird to touch the picture of their virtual friend (and give a treat when they do) – 3 times. (Click here for a quick video demo.)
  4. Virtual Partner Introduction (Click here to see a flow chart for your first introduction)
    • Make sure the audio is turned to mute on the tablet. 
    • Place your bird on a play stand/cage/play area that has a width of at least 3 feet so they can walk/fly away if they wish, and move closer as they feel comfortable.
    • Holding the tablet 3 feet away from your bird, call the bird partner
    • When the call connects (and still standing at least 3 feet away from your bird), point and encourage your bird to look at their friend on the screen. As your bird stays calm and interested, move the tablet closer 6 inches at a time, reassuring and praising them. Assess their behavior at each increment. As they continue to be calm and interested at each increment, move closer again.
    • Once they are comfortable with the tablet near enough to touch the screen, encourage them to watch the screen and say hello to their friend. (They may touch or interact with the screen, and that is ok.)
    • When they are calm and watching the screen within touching distance, begin to turn the volume up slowly, pausing every two volume-up presses to assess whether they are comfortable hearing the friend and their caregivers. 
    • If at any time the bird becomes afraid or uncomfortable, move the tablet farther away from them and allow them to back away as well. Wait until they are calm again and then move forward once more.
    • If your bird is nervous and you cannot reach Step (e) after 5 minutes, email us at

How do I teach my bird to call their friend?

Your bird will learn to touch a bell and then touch the messenger box with your bird’s friend on it which will result in a call to your bird’s friend. With repetition, your bird may learn to ring the bell (that will be in their play area) so you can bring the touchscreen with the friend boxes. Then they will touch the box of the friend they wish to call.

What happens if one of the birds has a negative reaction?

If your bird has a negative reaction, move the tablet backward away from your bird until they are calm and interested/watching again. Then bring it slowly forward as they remain calm, while giving them treats for watching and staying calm. If they remain nervous of the tablet for five minutes or longer, contact us.

If your bird is comfortable but the bird on the screen is having a negative reaction, turn the screen away (it should only be a few seconds) and then allow your bird to watch and interact again as the other bird should be “calm” again quickly once the tablet has been backed away.

Where do I get a bell?

You can purchase a toy bell on Amazon or use one you already have. Here is one that many of our birds have enjoyed: 

How do I upload the videos?

This is done through this link, the upload takes place at the end of your session diary form. This can be accessed via your phone or computer.

Where do I complete the notes after each session?

This is done through this link, the upload takes place at the end of your session diary form. This can be accessed via your phone or computer.

Can I withdraw participation and stop the study? How?

Yes, you may withdraw at any time. Please email us at and we will withdraw you from the study. 

How do I contact you if I need help?

Feel free to email us with any questions. We can be reached at


How do I register for the study?

Thank you for your interest. You can click here to register.

Can I particulate if I am not in the continental US or Canada?

Unfortunately the study is limited at this time to only the continental United States and Canada due to time zones.

How are participant groups selected?

Participants will be selected based on species-matches with other parrots within the same time-zone to promote ease in facilitating interactive calls. We will not select everyone who is interested, if we do not find a pairing. 

Do I need to schedule the training for a particular time of day every single time?

Flexible schedules are just fine. Participants will communicate with one another to set up video play dates with the birds.

Can I stay anonymous? What are the privacy considerations?

Your public Facebook name and public profile will be visible to the others in your bird’s interaction group. The researchers will ask you to submit to use video recordings of your sessions. These videos will only be analyised by us as researchers, used to provide information about the interactive systems. Please be aware that videos may include you if you are in the video. If the videos include content that triggers mandatory reporting obligations, please be advised that the researchers will have a duty to act in accordance with legal requirements.

How will the data be used?

The researchers will watch in the videos the behavior of the birds as they interact with one another. They will also collect information about how often the birds ask to call one another, and the duration of the calls.

How familiar does my bird need to be with tablets/cell-phones?

To ensure the comfort of the participants, ideal candidates will be very comfortable touching cell phone or tablet screen devices. No prior formal training is required, however.

What supplies and materials do I need? Do I supply them myself?

In addition to a video-meeting device (either your cell phone or tablet), you will be using:

    • Facebook messenger for kids
    • A toy bell for birds
    • Your bird’s favorite food treats
    • A secondary cell phone or tablet for video recording the sessions
    • Access to internet for uploading videos of your interactive calls

The interactive sessions will be located on a cage, play stand, or other area with a minimum of 3 feet that allows the bird to move freely within the area, to approach the screen, or to move away. 

I’m not on Facebook, can I still participate?

Unfortunately, no. Participant birds will be interacting via Facebook messenger.

What training skills will be used in the study?

Your bird will learn to ring a bell, then select a friend on a tablet/cell phone. From learning this behaviour you will be able to facilitate a call for them. “Touch” or “Target” training with positive reinforcement will be the primary training skill utilized.

How long will the study last?

The study is estimated to begin June 15 and last until July 31.

Can my bird continue to call their friend after the study concludes?

The study will be for a limited time only. After it concludes, you are welcome to continue virtual interaction with other birds and continue afterward too. (Any further interactions will be independent and outside the scope of the study.)

Will I be compensated for this study?

No, there will be no monetary compensation for the study. Our hope is that your bird will have enrichment and fun interacting with others of their species!