Parrots imitate individuals when addressing them

November 21, 2012
Balsby TJS, Momberg JV, Dabelsteen T (2012) Vocal Imitation in Parrots Allows Addressing of Specific Individuals in a Dynamic Communication Network. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49747. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049747 Credit: Thorsten Balsby

Whether living with pirates or in the wild, parrots have exceptional abilities to mimic the sounds they hear. One species, the orange-fronted conure, may have evolved this ability in order to communicate with specific individuals in other flocks, according to research published November 21 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Thorsten Balsby from the University of Aarhus, Denmark and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen.

In the wild, orange-fronted conures live in dynamic where individuals flit in and out, so each parrot encounters many different individuals every day. Each animal also has its own unique call. Both in the wild and in the researcher's experiments, parrots that heard an imitation of their own calls responded more frequently and faster to the calling individual than parrots that did not hear this imitation.

Based on these observations, the authors suggest that the parrots may have evolved their abilities as mimics so they could 'begin a conversation' with a specific individual by mimicking their call.

Explore further: Parrots learn their 'names' from their parents

More information: Balsby TJS, Momberg JV, Dabelsteen T (2012) Vocal Imitation in Parrots Allows Addressing of Specific Individuals in a Dynamic Communication Network. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49747. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049747

Related Stories

Parrots learn their 'names' from their parents

July 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Parrots, which have long amused us for their ability to imitate our vocal patterns, actually learn to caw their "names" from their parents, says a new Cornell study. The research offers the first evidence ...

Parrots do tricks without looking

April 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ornithologists at the University of Birmingham have discovered that parrots cannot see what they are doing when they carry out the tricky manipulations of objects, for which they are renowned. While parrots ...

'Virtual mates' reveal role of romance in parrot calls

August 3, 2010

Parrots are famed for their ability to mimic sounds and now researchers have used 'virtual mates' to discover if female parrots judge male contact calls when deciding on a mate. The research, published in Ethology, challenges ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover path to improved barley quality

October 18, 2017

Scientists from the International Barley Hub have discovered a genetic pathway to improved barley grain size and uniformity, a finding which may help breeders develop future varieties suited to the needs of growers and distillers.

Live fast die young: Updating signal detection theory

October 18, 2017

Signal Detection Theory is a popular and well-established idea that has influenced behavioral science for around 50 years. Essentially, the theory holds that in a predator-prey relationship, prey animals will show more wariness ...

Snapper family ties provide new evidence on marine reserves

October 18, 2017

A higher proportion of young snapper in fishing areas north of Auckland are related to adult snapper from the Goat Island Marine Reserve, confirming what scientists have long suspected: the reserve acts as a giant snapper ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.