If you’ve ever spent any time with a parrot, you already know how playful, intelligent, and social they are. What you might wonder is if they have an independent sense of humor. Many people believe that parrots simply mimic the sounds they hear, but in order to have a sense of humor, a parrot must be aware of their words and actions. This article will explore the question of if parrots have a sense of humor.
Do Parrots Have a Sense of Humor?
Yes, parrots have a sense of humor. Like people, these intelligent birds will interact with their flock, observing what brings them joy. Parrots will play tricks, say certain phrases and words, or do a little dance, all in the name of bringing about amusement.
What is a sense of humor?
Before talking about whether or not parrots have a sense of humor, we have to think about what a sense of humor is in the first place. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a personality that gives someone the ability to say funny things and see the funny side of things“. Psychology Today takes a slightly different approach to the definition. The publication describes a sense of humor as having the ability to express or perceive something funny to relieve tension, form social bonds, and even attract that special someone.
Parrots definitely hit the mark in saying funny things and expressing themselves in a comical manner. Do they perceive situations as humorous? My African grey used to say and do things to make me laugh. He would also laugh at things I would say even before I would laugh myself and play tricks on me and snicker afterward. If that’s not a sense of humor, I don’t know what is.
Do parrots understand what they’re doing?
Parrots exhibit a remarkable level of intelligence, suggesting they have a basic understanding of what they’re doing and saying. Researchers have shown these birds have demonstrated complex problem-solving skills, tool use, and the ability to comprehend and imitate human speech.
Studies conducted by Harvard University’s Department of Psychology show us that parrots, particularly species like the African Grey Parrot, exhibit advanced cognitive abilities, including logical reasoning and the ability to associate words with meanings. That would mean they have the ability to understand when something is funny. It also makes sense that they possess the qualities needed for a sense of humor.
Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s pioneering work with an African grey parrot named Alex, provided insights into the species’ ability to understand. Her studies only involved that specific parrot, but her research can also be applied to others in the parrot family. That’s because intelligence permeates through the avian world. While people in the community still debate the matter, evidence strongly suggests parrots are aware of their actions and words — including understanding humor.
Do parrots laugh?
Yes, parrots do laugh! And if you haven’t heard it for yourself, I highly recommend it. As you may know, parrots have an uncanny ability to mimic human sounds. Although African grey parrots hold first place in that category, macaws, conures, parrotlets, and others can mimic human laughter.
Our avian companions use laughter in much the same way we do — to show joy and bond with those around them. They do this by observing you and your family, both the sound of you laughing and what behaviors cause humans to laugh. Parrots learn behavior and social cues, and can learn to laugh as a reaction. It’s a great strategy for wanting to fit into a group, observe them and do what they do.
What other ways do parrots show a sense of humor?
Beyond laughter, parrots have amazing ways to display their sense of humor through interactions and behaviors. One playful way they do this is through “peek-a-boo” games, where they might hide behind objects or their own feathers and then suddenly reveal themselves to get a reaction.
They can also engage in playful banter or teasing by pretending to bite or nibble gently without causing harm or mimicking the phone ringing just to have you answer it. Parrots can also clang their toys, hang upside down, and hop around in comical ways — all for the LOLs.
They can also make funny sounds to make you laugh and even learn to tell jokes. While they might not understand the joke itself, depending on its complexity, your avian friend will understand that the punchline brings laughter. That’s the prize. Parrots’ natural curiosity and their willingness to explore new toys, games, and antics also contribute to their charming and often comical behavior, adding a touch of humor to their interactions with both humans and other feathered companions.
Given the intelligence of parrots, they certainly have the ability to understand that certain sounds and actions can bring about a desired response in their owners. These incredible animals also have a strong desire to bond with their flock — you — and their natural playful ways indeed give them a bright sense of humor.
“How Irene Pepperberg Revolutionized Our Understanding of Bird Intelligence,” Rebecca Boyle, Audubon, March 27, 2018, audubon.org.
“Brainy Birds,” Peter Reuell, The Harvard Gazette, February 25, 2019, news.harvard.edu
Kim is an avid bird watcher and owner in South Carolina. She loves identifying, studying, and feeding her feathered friends in their natural habitats. She also has first-hand experience as the owner of several species of exotic birds.