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Insightful News


Insightful News


Insightful News

Being cheeky is infectious for these parrots, thanks to a laughter-like warble


If you’ve ever had a kea nibble your car tyre or seen the mountain parrot move a traffic cone for no earthly reason, you’d know — these cheeky birds do things just because they want to.


Living in New Zealand’s southern alps, keas have been seen rumbling around like kittens, looping in the sky, and did we mention they like to mess with traffic? A new study suggests that one particular call — its warble — also seems to spread an infectious desire to play. 

Much like you might chuckle along with a sitcom laugh track, the kea’s warble can make other kea extra rambunctious.

In the heights of Arthur’s Pass on New Zealand’s South Island, researchers played a number of tracks to the kea: A few standard kea calls, a nondescript electronic tone, the call of the South Island robin, and finally, the notorious kea warble.

According to the report’s co-author, Ximena Nelson, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury, the birds would spontaneously start playing at the sound of the warble, even when alone. They might throw a stone or engage in some aerial acrobatics. Just cheeky kea stuff.

“If they were in company, if they were besides another kea that wasn’t playing, they’d immediately go tackle the other kea,” she described. “It became quite clear that one particular call, the warble call, was associated almost exclusively with one behavioural state — play.”