Bird Brains?

I have always been fairly unimpessed with the “linguistic” exploits of our closest genetic relatives, the great apes– the communications chasm seems wider than that between us and our dogs, despite their having been trained to manipulate some symbols.

Which is why recent developments in bird speech and cognition are so mind-boggling, especially as the avian brain is physically extremely different in
its structure. There is a lot of info out there, but check out this BBC
story for a good example of the most talented talking bird, the African gray
parrot.

1 thought on “Bird Brains?”

  1. Oh dear, don’t even get the parrot trainer started on this.

    Please please remind all to refrain from calling what parrots do language. They are excellent labelers, excelling at using learned noises at appropriate moments. They cannot however, understand the abstract concepts involved in language. This is one of the very things that gets so many parrot owners in trouble. They think of their speaking parrots as two year old children (Like Dr. Irene Pepperberg, the premier grey parrot researcher advices us.) Children they are NOT! Like you said, Steve their brain works entirely differently. They are incredibly intelligent but deserve to have their behaviors translated through the lens of what a wild parrots would do naturally.

    And that article is NOT a good example of grey cognition. They are NOT NOT NOT telepathic!! They are just far more astute at reading body language. (My grey knows the instant I think about leaving and says “goodbye.” It’s unnerving, especially if I haven’t done anything other than think about going, but it’s not telepathy, believe me.)

    If you want to read some great research on the potential intelligence of parrots–proof their brain mass ratio is comparable to higher primates– check out this link

    http://www.nserc.ca/news/features/parrot_e.htm

    The researcher sent me the whole article. I have it on pdf somewhere if you would like to read the whole report.

    Crap like that BBC article makes my avian consulting gigs all the more difficult. Yeeesh!

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