How Do We Know Parrots Enjoy Anything?

How Do We Know Parrots Enjoy Anything?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Another question recently asked on Quora was “what do parrots do for fun”?

We know parrots prefer “working” for food versus simply eating from overflowing bowls of bird food blends.

We know correlation does not necessarily imply causation but can we correctly infer that work & play are one and the same for a parrot?

Entrepreneurs are far happier working for less money with no boss in the equation.

I don’t see much of a difference.

Parrots figured out that fending for themselves was both fun and play while learning and improving their thought process.

They clearly know that “15 places to find food is better than 10 places to find food.”

“If I can reach 20 places to find food, I can feed my babies”.

Scrub jays will “hide” food in front of their flock and then move the food while the flock’s not looking for more security. Read more about re-caching here:

If we could get into parrots’ heads, we wouldn’t have pluckers, screamers, and prolific egg layers.

Recently an article published in Forbes starts:

Parrots have demonstrated they are capable of making complex economic decisions to maximize their profits — even if that meant they had to resist the urge to choose a low-value food reward in favor of a token that could be traded for a high-value food reward later – read more

Is all this calculating fun, rewarding, or merely driven by the instinct to survive?

To these points – if you look at 10,400 species of birds on the planet, most bird species are flock animals, and those that aren’t, still used intraspecies verbalization to communicate enormous amounts of valuable information.


We know that cockatoos can make tools out of wood to help them obtain food. Magpies make tools sometimes out of metal wire to impale larvae.

Crows create their own toys like sleds for sliding down steep roofs covered in snow. Finches and woodpeckers use twigs to impale larvae.

Scrub Jays “re-cache” their food especially if they know other birds saw them hide it. They will move the food after the other birds have left.

The ingenuity of birds is breathtaking


This begs the question “what good is a stash of food if you can’t communicate to other flock members where you put it”?

In Australia, a flock of almost a million budgies communicates with scout parties that are sent off to find the best places for foraging grass seed and water.

Birds are always communicating. Many species can identify babies that are just a couple of days old by their “voice.”

It’s important to keep in mind that birds have three times the neurons as mammals with respect to brain size and process thought three times quicker than us terrestrial beings.

A case could be made that birds are organic AI because of how fast they process thought and make decisions three times faster than mammals).

How do hawks fly through a crowded forest at 40 MPH without constantly crashing into trees? AI can not duplicate that thought process – yet.

I believe that when birds mimic, they are communicating. We know the work that Dr. Irene Pepperberg has done illustrates that birds are able to communicate “concepts.”

Mammal infants don’t instinctively know what objects like a foot or a ball or a toy are, any more than parrots.

Both species must learn.

Mimicking is part of a bird’s learning repertoire that because they are so smart they can’t help but avoid (the learning process).

The original question makes the assumption that a bird is mimicking a human.

Is it because the bird repeats the word or the phrase a number of times?

When musicians “practice” they play the same music over and over to improve their performance because they learn it better.

Perhaps mimicking is a bird improving its own performance by repeating.

It gets better at understanding the relationship between words and objects or concepts – or perhaps not.


If a budgie in a crowded flock flying over the Australian outback is thinking.

“If that kangaroo is heading towards food, we’ll follow him because it’s more efficient than randomly searching”.

“I hope everyone in the flock is on the same play page – “chirp – chirp – chirp – squawk –  squawk”.

The closest bird in the flock responds with  – “chirp – chirp – chirp – squawk –  squawk”.

The next closest bird calls out – “chirp – chirp – chirp – squawk –  squawk”.

Are they mimicking – or are they communicating?

I suppose if we created a database with all the mimicry thousands of birds are performing while at the same time recording their actions, we somehow could learn how to associate their vocabulary with their body movements to better understand what they are really saying.

Birds have been around for 99 million years.

If we follow through on my AI concept we may find that they’re actually speaking a language far too complex for humans to comprehend.

Humans can’t leave the house without clothing from neck to foot, satchels with everything from sealed vessels of liquids, clothing changes, electronics, and snack bars should Armageddon befall them before getting to work.

For eons, birds have gotten by with nothing more than their feathers beaks and feet.

If you want to believe that birds do nothing more than simply repeat random phrases, take a look at this video of Disco a budgie (recently deceased) that truly conceptualized himself.

Here’s a footnote to the prior answer entitled “Do pet birds show affection like dogs or cats do”.

Do pet birds show affection like dogs or cats do? If so, how do birds typically show affection?

Interestingly – we were out of town at a friend’s house, Peaches our Senegal parrot who traveled with us wherever we went, spent the night at Uncle Joe’s too.

We were in the kitchen having breakfast with Catherine and my friend’s girlfriend Karen.

After breakfast I went to take a shower I was gone for maybe 15-20 minutes.

While I was gone Karen and Catherine were talking about the expressions a bird shows because Peaches wasn’t looking very happy.

The next minute I walk into the room without knowing about the conversation, Peaches turned and looked at me and clearly was very happy to have me back in the room.

This surprised Karen because she had never thought about it much but she could see the changing demeanor of the bird with me in sight as compared to me being out of sight.

So yes there are many ways birds can show affection.

Did you know some birds love to preen beards?

You really gotta love someone to preen someone.

Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing

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