Pirate Parrots Display “Matey Dance”

Written by: Sharon Roth

“Ahoy,” chirped the parrot, who then declined to give any further comment.
Photo By Julia Wong

Dr. Perry Keates, ornithologist, has spent the last 15 years studying parrot mating dances. Though some parrots can use their colorful plumage to attract mates, birds that display their strength and viability through elaborate performances are much more successful. However, Keates recently discovered a parrot population that behaves differently than all the other known species. Instead of mating dances, parrots raised on pirate ships perform what Keates calls a “matey dance.”

But according to Keates, there’s a large problem that is surfacing with this particular species. “When people think of pirates, they usually assume there will be a parrot sitting on their shoulder. But what people don’t realize is that these parrots, which I call pirate parrots, spend much of their lives without seeing other birds,” Keates wrote in a blog post. “Normally, you see a parrot start performing a mating dance around a bird it wants to seduce. But pirate parrots will start doing these ‘matey dances’ as soon as they see any bird — not even a bird of the same species as them. Even below-average birds they see on Tinder that they have nothing in common with. It seems like a desperate, misguided attempt at finding companionship.”

Separately, Keates wrote that she “noticed that parrots’ ‘matey dance’ became less and less effective the longer they spent cooped up on pirate ships. Birds that spent a few weeks at sea with only a ragtag team of sailors to keep them company took days to acclimate back into bird society. Birds that spent several months on a sea voyage took even longer to reconnect with other birds. And birds that stayed inside all summer eating Doordash and watching Instagram Reels of random people from high school traveling to Italy are basically unable to be resocialized.”

Keates appeared in a nature documentary called 24-Parrot Gold, where she elaborated on the impacts of the pirate’s life on a parrot’s psyche. In an interview, she said, “If a parrot went, say, a whole summer without seeing any of its parrot friends, it would be very lonely. So lonely it might forget how to be a parrot at all. Maybe the parrot learned how to repeat words, but it was never that good of a conversationalist, and it doesn’t speak up in group settings because it feels like if it isn’t interesting or cool people won’t want to hang out with it anymore. Maybe all that parrot did was work a 9-to-5 and it could barely find the energy to do something fun or productive in the evenings. Maybe the parrot hated summer vacation and really missed its parrot friends and really hated the fact that it lived so far away… Maybe the parrot longs to return to the life it knew, but the thick fog of depression has settled in, and it can’t even imagine feeling joy again.” Keates trailed off.

When asked if she was okay, Keates gleefully replied, “No!”

Graphics Editor at The MQ

Sharon was “born” in 1801. She inspired the Archie Comics, which later inspired the hit TV show Riverdale.

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