Parrots are entertaining pets, but they can be demanding. Parrots must be mentally stimulated for hours every day or they get bored. Inactivity or a lack of stimulation stresses them out, making them destructive and aggressive. Most owners are not able to entertain their parrot all day, so TV seems like a good alternative.
TV can be good for parrots. Some parrots enjoy watching TV with their owners, but will dislike watching it alone. Others have favorite shows that excite and make them dance when they come on. Some parrots don’t like watching TV at all and become agitated by hearing or seeing what’s on screen.
Aside from occupying a bored parrot, TV can help it learn how to speak. As a babysitting tool, it can distract energetic birds and calm them down enough to mitigate aggressive behavior. However, it shouldn’t be used to completely replace the time you spend bonding with your parrot. It shouldn’t be the bird’s primary teacher either. Studies have shown that parrots learn better when a human is teaching them.
Can Parrots See TV?
Before we can understand if parrots like TV (or if it’s good for them), we have to know: Can parrots even see TV? Do they process the images in the same way that humans do?
Some people think birds can’t see what’s on the screen at all. Instead, parrots only look at TVs because of the sounds they emit. This isn’t true. Unless the parrot is blind, it can see the images that appear on the screen when watching TV. However, it will view this a bit differently than we do.
Can Parrots See Different Colors In TVs?
Most TVs work by combining 3 main colors:
That’s because human beings have 3 color receptors that allow us to see these colors. The receptors then allow us to view any color combinations that originate from these 3 colors. People who are colorblind have color receptors that don’t work as they should. As such, they are unable to perceive the colors around them properly.
Parrots have a 4th color receptor for ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet is a color human beings can’t even perceive, so we have no idea what it looks like. Because parrots have this 4th receptor, they can see more colors.
That’s why people believe that parrots cannot understand what they see on television. TVs only reflect the 3 colors we can detect with our receptors. However, there is no evidence suggesting that parrots don’t understand what they see on TV. It’s made for human vision instead of bird vision, but that’s not a problem.
How Parrots See TV
After all, humans can understand black and white images. Our perception of what we see doesn’t exclusively depend on color. It also relies on:
There’s no reason why parrots can’t do the same when looking at a screen that only reflects 3 colors instead of 4.
It should be noted that this is just a theory based on anecdotal observations from long-time owners. No official studies have been conducted on whether parrots understand what they see on TV or not. However, we can guess based on how parrots behave when a television is turned on.
Do Parrots See TV As Skewed?
There’s also the matter of depth perception. Because of the position of their eyes, parrots have a wider field of view. The trade-off is that they lack depth perception.
Parrots are prey animals. They need to be able to see as much as they can keep an eye out for predators. However, the world they see is a lot flatter than ours. Despite this, it’s believed that parrots have no trouble seeing what’s on television.
Do Parrots Watch TV?
Parrots are well-loved for their ability to behave in very human ways. For example, they talk, some species have the intelligence of 5-year-old children, and they even like to watch TV with you.
Of course, all parrots are different. Not just species-wise, but personality-wise also. One owner might gush about how excited their pet gets while watching TV. Another parrot owner might complain about not being able to turn on the TV because their parrot gets angry.
Every parrot behaves differently when watching TV. You can’t just assume that yours will be excited to watch something with you.
Still, it’s worth figuring out if your parrot likes to watch the television. You can even train your parrot to enjoy the process. That’s because there are many benefits to adding TVs to your parrot’s routine. For example, it can:
Most parrots feel less lonely when they watch TV. A television show can stimulate a parrot and make it feel like it’s interacting. This is done with the:
- Active images
- Interactions between people on-screen
It’s not the same as the parrot spending time with its owner. However, it’s far better to have simulated interaction instead of no interaction at all. When compared to dead silence, the parrot will enjoy the activity as a distraction.
This makes it helpful for owners with busy schedules. You can have the TV on in the background if you’ll be gone for a few hours and the bird will be left by itself. It’s also good to leave on when you’re too tired or busy to entertain your bird.
Should Your Parrot Watch TV To Avoid Loneliness?
TV works as a very necessary stand-in for loneliness. If that seems like an exaggeration, then make no mistake – parrots get lonely very easily. These birds are very sociable, but this means they require attention for many hours a day. In the wild, parrots live in a flock of hundreds of birds and are rarely ever alone. It’s in their nature to want companionship.
Most people say that parrots need 4 hours of attention a day. The truth is, they need more. The only reason that’s not widely stated is that most people can’t afford to give more. Providing 8+ hours to a single pet can seriously interfere with many people’s lives.
Because of this, parrots tend to get very lonely. Loneliness only stresses parrots out. That stress is what causes them to display “stereotypes.” Stereotypes are what researchers call displays of stress-induced behavior in parrots. Common stereotypes include:
- Feather plucking
- Lack of appetite
These stereotypes can cause serious harm to your parrot and the members of your household. As such, TV can be a necessary substitute to calm down an aggravated parrot. It can also help avoid self-destructive behavior.
Work As A Good Teaching Tool
If you’re in the process of teaching your parrot how to repeat phrases, a TV is a good way to get your parrot to talk. Parrots don’t just repeat the first words they hear. They repeat sounds that they like and that sound pleasant to their ears.
Are you having trouble teaching your parrot to expand its vocabulary? Then maybe it doesn’t like the way you’re pronouncing the words or your tone of voice. Watching TV will expose your parrot to different words it might be inspired to repeat.
Can TV Alone Teach My Bird To Talk?
However, you shouldn’t rely solely on the TV to teach your parrot something. That’s true whether it’s:
- How to mimic
- How to differentiate colors
- How to do certain tricks
That’s supported by a study published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. Here, researchers found that parrots have trouble learning when videotapes were used. Educating the parrots was successful when the birds had live tutors. TV should only be used to supplement parrot’s education, instead of being the main source.
Socializing a parrot from a young age is crucial. When a parrot lacks social skills, it will become aggressive towards other birds and humans. It’s also more prone to jealous behavior. In some cases, a parrot will be anti-social due to past trauma. That makes it difficult to teach the bird how to trust again.
One of the easiest ways to socialize your parrot by getting it accustomed to human voices. This can be done by introducing it to new people. However, the presence of strangers in the home may stress the parrot. Instead, you can use TV shows. The people will not be physically present, but your bird will learn about new:
- Types of voices
- Even different languages or pronunciations
This will all be in a safe, controlled environment. With enough exposure, your parrot will eventually learn that most human voices are safe and trustworthy. This makes it easier to transition them into more immersive social interaction.
Do Parrots Like Watching TV?
Now that you understand the perks of TV, your next task is learning if your parrot even likes watching it. How can you tell?
You can start by observing your parrot’s behavior when the TV is on. Sometimes, parrots will react to something positive and negative in the same exact way. It might take you a while to understand how your parrot feels about the television. Here are some body language signs to watch for:
Parrots are able to control the size of their pupils at will. This is called “pinning.” They do this when they are happy, interested in something, or excited. However, they also display the behavior when scared or trying to warn someone against getting closer to them.
If it’s an aggressive move, this pinning will be accompanied by other negative signs.
Besides shrieking when unhappy and singing when pleased, parrots also purr. However, a parrot’s purr is very different from a cat’s purr. Parrots only purr when unhappy and annoyed. This is usually issued as a warning.
If your bird purrs after you turn on the TV, consider turning the volume down or turning the TV off altogether. It may be overwhelmed by the noise or hate the distraction.
When a parrot bows low to the ground with flared feathers, it’s getting ready to attack. If your bird does this when you turn on the TV, turn it off immediately. It might have seen something on the screen that it didn’t like. That made your parrot become aggressive, so it’s best to de-escalate the situation before you end up with a cracked TV.
Parrots will flap their wings when happy. However, they’ll also do it when feeling hot. The motion drags fresh air up under their wings.
If your bird flaps when the TV is on, it may be having a great time. However, it might also be flapping for unrelated reasons and have no opinion. If it continues to flap and the temperature is fine, take it as a good sign.
When angry, parrots fan their tails to intimidate enemies. If this is matched to pinning, you should turn off the TV.
Should You Force A Parrot To Watch TV?
If the alternative is leaving your parrot bored and lonely, you may consider leaving the TV on no matter what. Surely the bird will grow to like the shows, right?
On the contrary, this is a poor decision. It can damage your parrot’s mood and opinion of you. If you force your parrot to watch TV against its will, it may:
- Become agitated
- Begin to scream
- Become even more rebellious
- Show more destructive behavior
- Grow stressed whenever the TV is on
By forcing the situation, you’re making your parrot feel more isolated and uncomfortable. After all, its environment is no longer safe and secure, and you aren’t helping. This can have the opposite effect of any normal perks found in watching TV.
If your parrot dislikes watching shows, or only likes watching them with you, then try to accommodate its wishes. You can always work on training the parrot to enjoy the process later. Rushing it will cause damage.
TV Shows for Parrots
Every parrot will have its own favorite shows. Some will watch anything, while others will squawk if you even think about changing the channel. It’s wise to try a few different channels and see what your parrot reacts to.
If they seem happy with certain TV programs, then keep it up. Your parrot may also grow fond of your preferred shows. After all, they associate watching those programs with spending time with you.
If you want a good starting point, then here is what most parrots like:
Parrots tend to like watching and listening to other birds. As such, nature channels are a good thing to show your pet.
However, this can be a double-edged sword. They can frighten your parrot just as easily as entertain it. Parrots are prey animals, and nature shows often depict predators. Watch out for any programs that feature:
- Large cats
There are many things on nature channels that could trigger survival instincts worth avoiding. If nature shows are your parrot’s favorite, pre-record ones that are deprived of anything upsetting. By doing so, you can leave the TV on with confidence that your bird won’t be frightened while you’re not there.
Shows for pre-school children are also well-loved among parrots. Not only are they educational. There’s also no way for your parrot to learn any explicit words from those kinds of shows.
If you’re trying to socialize your parrot, sit-coms are an excellent way to begin. Depending on the genre, your parrot will:
- Hear a range of voice types and accents
- See people of all shapes and colors move around
- Get used to new tones of voice
As long as it’s not a violent or fast-paced show, the parrot may find it very calming. After all, action films have lots of sharp cuts and showy displays. Sit-coms are more about walking around and hanging out. That’s a type of interaction a parrot will need when learning to accept any visiting friends.
With that said, sitcoms are bad for traumatized parrots. The laugh tracks might be too sudden for the parrot to find comfortable.
When using the TV to help an unsocialized parrot become comfortable with other humans and birds, it’s always best to turn the volume down. This may be to a lower setting than you normally would.
Parrots have better hearing than we do. Things that might not seem loud to us can disturb the bird. The same thing applies to horror movies or thrillers, since parrots don’t like to hear people screaming.