Parrots have favorite movies?
If you have ever been to one of World of Wild Theater presentations where a parrot is in the lineup, you would have had a pretty good chance of hearing a joke about how the parrots still use an old box TV and VHS player to watch movies. Until very recently, that was actually not a joke! For as long as many of us at the Theater can remember, we have had an old Toshiba TV with a VCR built in that played the same films over and over again until we have movies nearly memorized due to hearing the same lines repeatedly. While this was fine for the birds, we were wanting to get some new films to them in order to provide new sights and sounds and hopefully provide some new enrichment. Thanks to a wonderful donor, we were able to get a small Smart TV and Disney+ subscription to do just this!
You may still be wondering … why do the parrots need a TV and movies in the first place? Well, believe it or not, the movies are a great form of sensory enrichment! Enrichment is anything that we can add to our animals’ regular routine to elicit natural behaviors and enhance their overall lives. For parrots specifically, this can be things to chew on/destroy with their beaks, manipulate with their beaks or feet, or changes in scenery/sounds to focus on as they might in the trees! This last item is very easily done with a TV and movies. We have seen it as being quite successful through the behavior of the animals when the movies are played.
Sometimes, if it’s a movie they have seen a lot or not a favorite, a couple of the parrots will sleep or choose to do other things, but if it’s a new movie or a favorite we will see them sit very attentively and watch the movie, interact with the movie, and even yell at any team members who block their view of the screen. Yes, that’s right, the parrots do have favorite movies! Reko, our yellow-naped Amazon, sings along with “Moana” and seems to enjoy the grossly underrated LEGO movies. (My opinion is that it’s because they are incredible movies, but it may also be due to the bright colors.) Larry, our African grey parrot, seems enraptured by musicals, especially “Fantasia” and “The Greatest Showman”. He also seems to think Olaf the snowman is the greatest comedian on Earth, as Larry will “laugh” any time he hears his voice. All of our parrots have their favorites, but we recently discovered they all actually share a mutual enjoyment for one series of films and shows … The Muppets! They had never seen The Muppets that we know of until we were recently able to introduce them to the films with our newly acquired Disney+ subscription. As the movie was playing, they all sat in their homes as close as they could get to the movie and watched it, completely engrossed in the film. We also saw some excited wing flutters at points, as well as some humming along and mimicked laughter. This was also entertaining to our team, who usually never sees the parrots all on the same page when it comes to what they watch!
Of course, a lot of what we see are behaviors that we as humans are reading as particular enjoyment for movies. We can’t truly speak for the animals when it comes to how they are actually feeling about a film, but we can look at how they are acting, and based off our knowledge and experience, as well as relationships with the individuals, we can make an educated guess at level of entertainment. We can, however, speak for the animals and thank everyone who goes out of their way to donate time, money, and/or objects that help us give the animals the best lives possible. We appreciate every little thing and can confidently say that you are all helping our birds have fully enriched lives!
Keeper II, Ambassador Animals