You may have seen videos online of parrots making a noise that is familiar to many of us: laughter.
If you own a parrot, you may have even heard your pet chuckling at your antics around the house.
But… what is your bird thinking when they’re laughing at something?
Do they really find something funny, or is there another behavioural explanation for parrots laughing?
The answer is yes, Parrots do ‘laugh’. But it isn’t always because they find something funny, and is more a result of parrots’ unique ability to understand and react to the behaviour of their companions.
In other words, if your parrot begins to notice you or your friends laughing after you do something, your bird could start mimicking your laughter if the same situation reoccurs.
It’s the same thing that happens when parrots ‘speak’… they’re mimicking your voice.
Let’s take a look at what parrots find funny.
Parrots find you funny
You make your parrot laugh!
It makes sense. Like any pet, parrots live with you and are around to observe your daily life.
That means that your parrot will start to grow accustomed to the quirks and personality of its owner.
But parrots don’t really ‘laugh’ at your because they understand our sense of humour.
Instead, breeders at Canada’s ‘parrot farm’ say that parrots ‘mimic our laughter’.
In other words, if your parrot learns that a certain tone of voice or human action generates laughter from the people in the vicinity, your parrot will learn the behaviour and try to join in the joke or even pre-empt laughter.
Some owners swear that their parrots ‘get’ the joke.
While no scientific research says that parrots understand language and humour, their ability to understand and mimic sounds they hear can lead to some seriously convincing behaviour from your pet.
Whether or not your parrot is actually listening is another matter, but they certainly can make sounds that we interpret as laughter.
So go ahead to audition your stand up routine, your parrot won’t judge you and you might even get a few laughs.
Other birds make your parrot laugh
If you own multiple birds, you may have noticed that your parrot does things that may incite laughter from their feathered friends.
This is because, according to researchers, parrots are different than other animals in that they can recognize and react to playful behaviour.
At the University of Veterinary Medicine in Austria, researchers concluded that when parrots are exposed to a certain kind of warble (produced by other parrots), they are up to 20 times more likely to start acting playfully and begin ’laughing’.
The same study concluded that birds take on a ‘gleeful’ outlook during their playtime with other birds, and it has been suggested that parrot’s laughter is a reflection of their emotional state.
That means Parrots are social, emotionally intelligent and communicative animals.
Even if a parrot’s laughter doesn’t mean that they find humour in a situation does not mean that they aren’t happy, so pet owners can use laughter as a gauge for when their pet is feeling happy.
Obviously this also means that if a parrot isn’t laughing, it might not be feeling as comfortable socializing with other birds.
A good solution to this, if you own two or more parrots, the chances of them laughing while they play together is much higher!
Socializing your bird will lead to avian laughter, but it also keeps them happy and active.
Which breed of parrot is most likely to laugh?
There are over 350 different species of parrots.
Many if not all of them have the ability to mimic laughter and get excitable when they hear others laughing.
But some species are more known for their laugh than others.
For example, Kea and African Grey parrots are common species whose owners have reported constant laughter.
Additionally, researchers in New Zealand have recently noticed that while most parrots are capable of laughter, Kea parrots often make the warbling tone that is mistaken for laughter in social situations as well as on their own.
The fact that these laugh-warbles can occur when Kea parrots are away from others means that the sound is not just a reaction to others, but could be indicative of parrots making the sounds when they are happy or satisfied with something in nature.
Kea and Grey Hair parrots are the parrots best known for their laughter, but macaws, cockatoo’s, lovebirds and most other variations of parrot do ‘laugh’ in some capacity!
Other birds like Kookaburras and laughing gulls can also laugh, but they aren’t good pets and usually don’t laugh for the same endearing reasons as parrots.
Other peculiar sounds and Actions
In addition to laughter, parrots can make an assortment of other noises that are just as eerily human as laughter.
Most Parrot owners know that the birds mimic speech and have been known to pick up on swear words or odd phrases commonly used by their owner.
Parrots can also make noises that sound like laughter to a human, but are actually noises of discontent.
Shrieking, screaming and particularly squawking are usually signs of an angry or bored parrot.
Depending on your individual parrot, these sounds could sound strikingly similar or entirely different, so make sure you get to know your parrot and the noises it makes! It’ll keep you and your bird happy and laughing for a long time to come.
Laughter is not the only way that parrots express their playfulness.
In the wild, parrots have been observed ‘high-fiving’ during playtime by tapping their wings together with other parrots, and bobbing their heads often is a sign that your parrot wants attention (or a mate!).
So, can parrots laugh? Yes, but not the way we think they do.
They mimic laughter by learning the behaviour of their human companions. In the wild, they observe and listen to other birds.
When playing, birds often make these laugh-warbles to show happiness.
While this communication through sound is an evolutionary wonder, the fact that it’s possible to share a laugh with your pet is astounding and amazing.
Along with many other endearing attributes of parrots, their laughter is a part of the foundation of the relationship between bird and owner.
So the next time your parrot starts to chuckle…. remember: He’s laughing with you, not at you.