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Parrots Respond to Canned Laughter and Give Each Other High Fives!

New research has revealed that kea parrots start to exhibit playful behaviour when exposed to a parrot version of canned laughter. In a study led by Raoul Schwing of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, keas were played 5-minute recordings of exuberant wild keas and the laughter proved to be incredibly infectious!

Contagious Parrot Laughter

The birds were seen to spontaneously burst into bouts of playful behaviour when they heard the recordings and became the first avian species to be observed responding to laughter-like sounds. The keas began to perform acrobatic loops and exchanged high fives in mid-air. They threw objects to each other and generally displayed what appeared to be emotionally contagious behaviour.

When the recording stopped, the birds quickly calmed down and went back to what they had been doing!

Playful Parrots

Keas were already known to be playful characters but the distinctive warbling that they make has now been shown to inspire the equivalent of infectious laughter in people.

New Zealand Tests

Raoul Schwing and his team conducted 60 tests in New Zealand. The birds were played the warbling sound in addition to other animal sounds and their response to each was observed. Only when they heard the warbling would the birds become so excited and playful.

Child’s Play

Schwing says that the bird’s behaviour shows closer similarities with the excitable behaviour that can spread amongst young children than with the adult response to a joke. Until now, the only animals which have been seen showing this type of emotional response have been chimpanzees and rats which are more closely related to humans than birds.

Further Research

The scientific community has shown great interest in the study’s findings. There will almost certainly be more research into this subject as spontaneous exhibitions of play have been noted anecdotally in mammals including dogs. By understanding these emotional responses better, we can gain greater insight into how the different species on the planet have evolved and how their minds operate. An improved understanding of animals’ responses to audible stimulation helps us to understand our own.


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