Friday, September 14, 2007

Polly want a cracker . . .

Alex is an amazing African Grey Parrot who died recently. He was bought at a pet store when he was about 1 year old and wsa the subject of a study at several universities over the years. The video is a great example of things Alex can do. There is also los of information all over the web about Alex and his owner, Irene Pepperberg.

Goodbye Alex, we will miss you.

The following is from Wikipedia:

Before Pepperberg's work with Alex, it was widely believed in the scientific community that birds were not intelligent and could only use words by mimicking, but Alex's accomplishments indicated that birds may be able to reason on a basic level and use words creatively. Pepperberg wrote that Alex's intelligence was on par with that of dolphins and great apes. She also reported that Alex had the intelligence of a five-year-old human and had not reached his full potential by the time he died. She said that the bird had the emotional level of a human two-year-old at the time of his death.

Alex's death, on 6 September 2007, came as a complete surprise; the average life span for African grey parrots is 50 years. He had appeared healthy the day before, and was found dead in the morning. The cause of death is unknown. According to a press release issued by the Alex Foundation, "Alex was found to be in good health at his most recent annual physical about two weeks [before his death]. According to the vet who conducted the necropsy, there was no obvious cause of death."

Robert and I have an African Grey Parrot as well. Caesar came to live with us shortly after we were married. I wanted one so badly after reading about Alex. Robert found an ad for an African Grey for sale at a pet store. He has an amazing vocabulary. He asks questions and makes smart-alec comments. If I am home from work he will ask, "Honey, what's wrong are you sick?" IF I respond yes, he will tell Boomer, the macaw, "Shut up Boomer, honey has a headache". He is always aware of what is going on around him. He figures things out and constantly amazes me with his wit. He is by no means as smart as Alex, (do not tell him I said that) but I can definitely see the possibilities of the species in him. Sometimes it frightens me that I am actually conversing with a bird. Caesar does say the "f" word, always in context when he is irritated with me and always quietly so the kids don't hear him. We have owned several parrots over the years, Caesar is by far my favorite. Caesar only likes Robert to handle him, he only remotely tolerates me.

I actually snicker while telling you these things because if y'all came over the visit Caesar probably wouldn't perform at all. He only speaks when he is with familiar people or people he is immediately comfortable with. We had a friend that was totally enamored with Caesar and would talk to him like crazy while visiting. Caesar would turn his head and tuck it into his wing feather ignoring him. When Kevin would leave, Caesar would begin answering all the questions he asked him in order and then laugh up a storm. Funny bird. We have attempted to videotape him on numerous occassions, but he is always the wiser.

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