Are African grey parrots bird brains or brainiacs? Science isn’t for sure.

As yet another wildly varying differences of opinions in science.


This one?

Varies from, “OK, we’ll give you this – Your parrot might be smart enough to know what you are saying”…

[via] Far from just mind­lessly re­peat­ing sounds they hear, pet par­rots may have a pur­pose for their vo­cal ex­pres­sions, in­clud­ing try­ing to try to track their own­ers’ loca­t­ion, a study has found.

While many own­ers will at­test that pet par­rots have a pur­pose in their talk­ing, the sub­ject was lit­tle stud­ied be­fore re­cent­ly. Cer­tainly par­rots have shown feats of in­tel­li­gence—one re­portedly formed a con­cept of the num­ber ze­ro—but most re­search on cap­tive par­rots has fo­cused on lab-reared birds’ re­sponses in question-and-answer tasks, sci­en­tists say. 

The new study in­stead an­a­lyzed the types of sounds a par­rot de­cides to make spon­ta­ne­ous­, and how these might vary de­pend­ing on so­cial con­text.


An African Grey parrot (photo by Dominic Morel)

Re­search­ers at the Un­ivers­ity of Geor­gia stud­ied hours of vid­e­o­tape of a home-raised, talk­ing Af­ri­can Grey par­rot named Cos­mo. They not­ed what they called sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in her talk­ing habits, and themes ad­dressed, de­pend­ing on which peo­ple were around her, what they were do­ing and how far away they were.

“Cos­mo’s vo­cal pro­duc­tion is far from ran­dom and is strongly in­flu­enced by the con­text cre­at­ed by varia­t­ions in her so­cial part­ner’s phys­i­cal pres­ence and will­ing­ness to re­cip­ro­cate in­ter­ac­tion,” wrote the re­search­ers, Er­in N. Colbert-White and col­leagues, in the May is­sue of the Jour­nal of Com­par­a­tive Psy­chol­o­gy.

The bird vo­calized al­most twice much when the own­er was in a neigh­bor­ing room than when the own­er was ei­ther out of the house or in the same room, they found.

“When she and her own­er were in sep­a­rate rooms,” they wrote, Cos­mo was “sig­nif­i­cantly more like­ly” to use ut­ter­ances in­volv­ing her spa­tial loca­t­ion or that of her own­er, Colbert-White and col­leagues wrote. These in­clud­ed “where are you” and “I’m here.” Some of these sounds might thus be an “adapta­t­ion of the wild par­rot con­tact cal­l,” they added—a type of call birds make when try­ing to de­ter­mine the loca­t­ion of out-of-sight flock mates.

More­o­ver, “when her own­er was in the room and will­ing to re­cip­ro­cate com­mu­nica­t­ion, the par­rot was more likely to use [sounds] that, in Eng­lish, would be con­sid­ered so­lic­ita­t­ions for vo­cal in­ter­ac­tion (e.g., ‘Cos­mo wan­na talk’),” they wrote.

“Any par­rot own­er can at­test to the strong so­cial bond­ing that oc­curs be­tween hu­man care­givers and their home-raised Af­ri­can Greys,” they not­ed. “Home-raised par­rots of­ten treat their hu­man care­givers like a con­spe­cif­ic [mem­ber of the same spe­cies] pair mate.”

The re­search­ers set up the vi­deocam­era near Cos­mo’s cage and al­lowed the own­er, a wom­an they would iden­ti­fy only as B.J., to tape one-hour ses­sions at her con­ven­ience. Twelve hours of record­ings were even­tu­ally used for anal­y­sis. An in­de­pend­ent ob­serv­er cat­e­go­rized the words and phrases ut­tered by the bird to avoid bi­as, the re­search­ers said.  “Lin­guis­tic anal­y­sis re­vealed that Cos­mo’s com­plete rep­er­toire com­prised 278 dif­fer­ent un­its that ranged in length from one to eight words or non­word sounds,” they noted. [Read More]


“OMG – Parrots? Totally as smart as apes, I swear!”

[via New Scientist] Parrots join apes and Aristotle in the club of reason

Humans do it. Great apes do it. Now a parrot has shown it can use logical reasoning to work out where food is hidden.

Sandra Mikolasch of the University of Vienna’s Konrad Lorenz Research Station in Austria and her colleagues first checked that seven African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) had no preference for the two types of food on offer, seeds or walnuts.

Then each parrot watched a researcher hide a walnut under one opaque cup and a seed under another. Next the researcher hid the cups behind a screen, removed one of the treats and showed the bird which one had been taken. Finally, the screen was removed to see if the parrot could work out which treat must remain, and under which cup it must be.

Only one of the parrots, a female called Awisa, was able to do this, choosing correctly in three-quarters of the tests – 23 out of 30. “So far, only great apes have been shown to master this task,” says Mikolasch. As with the parrots, only some apes could solve the problem, she says. “So we now know that a grey parrot is able to logically exclude one possibility in favour of another to get a reward, known as ‘inference by exclusion’.”

The other parrots chose more randomly, suggesting they hadn’t worked out what was going on. But they did show their mettle in easier tests, where the cups were in view throughout. [Read More]


What can be said…

But one has to love the variations.

Thanks to them?

One can find a little bit of something for everyone.

ANIMAL PLANET SPECIAL – Air Date: 7/5/2008:

Meet Congo African Grey, GRIFFIN, who has succeeded ALEX in helping Dr. Irene PEPPERBERG of Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, prove that Parrots are sensitive, intelligent, thinking, feeling creatures!

FOOTAGE of ALEX from 7:28 to 9:20.
{Alex passed away Sept. 6, 2007…RIP…}

See Full Article Here:

NARRATED BY: William Shatner

For more info, visit THE ALEX FOUNDATION
(where you can also watch the FULL 22-Minute Video):

Also making an appearance is famous African Grey, EINSTEIN, together with Stephenie White from the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.

Visit the Knoxville Zoo’s Website for more information on Einstein and AFRICAN GREY PARROTS:

You can watch a video of EINSTEIN performing at the Zoo’s YouTube Channel:


2 comments on “Are African grey parrots bird brains or brainiacs? Science isn’t for sure.

  1. The yesterday post about our friends S&R and the first part of this post about African Grey, are telling that the bond can be made between any species. The souls recognised each other or two parts of the same souls compliment each other. Soul doesnt have gender or age or species obstacles. That is the only conclusion I can make reading these posts.

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