Alex the Parrot and Parrot Intelligence

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By Diane Burroughs

Did you know that Parrots have been found to be as smart as a 4 to 5 year old child? Alex the parrot showed the world just how smart parrots are. Pioneering research from Dr. Irene Pepperberg at Brandeis University and and Harvard plus, researchers at the Universities of Vienna and Oxford have proven that parrots and other smart birds have extraordinary skills, making them some of the most intelligent animals on Earth.

Research Shows Parrot Intellect

People love parrots because of their exceptional ability to talk.  But, more than that research shows that parrot are capable of the following higher level thinking skills:

• Planning

• Problem solving including using tools

• Comprehending questions and giving reliable answers

This ABC News clip on the passing of Alex the Parrot shows just how smart birds are.

According to Dr. Irene Peperberg , a world famous research associate in psychology,  parrots ”understand things like categories of color, material and shape, number concepts, and concepts of bigger and smaller, concepts of similarity and difference, and absence; things we once thought that a bird could not comprehend, these parrots are showing us it’s possible.”  National Science Foundation, May 2, 2011.

In the movie Life with Alex : A Memoir, Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her team at Harvard and Brandeis Universities shows the world how Alex the African Grey Parrot has learned colors, shapes, and what matter items are made of.

African Grey Parrot Drives a Bird Buggy

Another fascinating example of just how brainy parrots are is “Pepper” an African Grey Parrot that is learning to drive a parrot sized Bird Buggy! Pepper, an intelligent parrot with separation anxiety had beset his owner, Andrew Gray, with ear splitting brash screeches any time he was left alone. Andrew, an engineering graduate student at the University of Florida responded to his parrots needs by developing the Bird Buggy. This little gadget is a joystick operated bird buggy that Pepper can navigate about the house in search of his Pal.

Wild birds are also known to be intelligent. Researchers at the University of Vienna and Oxford have conducted trailblazing research on the problem-solving abilities of New Caledonian Crows and Kea’s by presenting birds with an acrylic “puzzle box “ that contains food. In video footage, these two species show how they use a variety of tools and problem-solving strategies to “forage” for food. The researchers are publishing two new studies — one in cooperation with members of the Behavioral Ecology Research Group in Oxford — in the scientific journals PLoS ONE and Biology Letters.

So, what’s all this squawk about parrot intelligence have to do with you?

Just like a young child with nothing to do, your parrot will find a way to stimulate its mind and solve its loneliness, possibly in ways that are problematic.

Under-stimulated, lonely parrots tend to engage in attention getting behavior or anxiety related behaviors such as screaming and feather picking. Parrots quickly learn that negative attention is better than minimal attention and boredom.

One of the fastest ways to encourage problem behaviors in our parrots is to provide attention for annoying attention getting behaviors. We often do this unwittingly.

You can provide mental stimulation for your parrots with foraging bird toys, bird puzzles and teaching your birds tricks with specialized bird props.

About Diane Burroughs

Diane Burroughs, founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. A bird lover who is owned by African Grey's, a Moluccan, a Parrotlet and a Red-Bellied Parrot, Diane is dedicated to improving the lives of pet birds with vet-approved parrot tested supplies and expert bird care articles.

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