Old World Aviaries

African Grey matter

by Gary Popp

Dotty Hart was slow in returning Arrow's water dish one morning. Her thirsty bird told her, “Joba, Arrow drink.” Joba is the name that Arrow made up for Dotty when Arrow was 6 months old.

Dotty taught Arrow some names of different objects. She would hold up a feather and ask, “What is that?” Arrow would say “feather,” and Dotty would tell her, “Good boy, Arrow.” One day the parrot reversed the tables. When Dotty held up the feather, Arrow asked Dotty, “What is that?” A bit shocked, Dotty answered “feather,” and Arrow replied, “Good boy, Joba!”

Mrs. Hart had been teaching Arrow the species of her other birds, but was having problems getting Arrow to say, “Whitney Joe is a cockatoo.” Dotty had spend several days and Arrow had had enough. She came to the edge of her cage, leaned towards Dotty with a glare in here eyes and said, “Whitney Joe is eagle!” Dotty's husband had been taking the cockatoo by Arrow's cage and would have Whitney Joe spread his wings by saying “eagle.”

Nikki Reismeier's bird Einstein was watching Nikki eating a cupcake and said, “Want some.” Nikki replied, “No, Stein, you can't have any,” and took another bite. Einstein came back with “Is it good hmmm?” to which Nikki answered, with a mouthful, “Yes, it's very good, Stein.” The bird brought Nikki's husband to his knees with laughter as Einstein responded, “Oink, Oink, Oink.”

Dr. Irene Pepperberg has been working with a grey named Alex since June 1977, studying human/animal communications. According to Dr. Pepperberg, “Alex can identify and describe six colors, five shapes, several types of material, and quantities to six.”

Alex called an apple a “banerry” (banana-cherry), a pitted almond a “cork nut,” and hard corn “rock corn.” Alex, upon seeing himself in a mirror asked, “What color?”

Alex, Arrow, and Einstein have all asked questions and made statements showing an understanding of language. Dr. Pepperberg explained, “…and there are striking parallels between the language development of birds and that of children.” Birds babble and play with sounds before forming words the way young children do.

The African Grey parrot possesses an outstanding mimicry ability and is highly intelligent.

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