Friday, September 21, 2007

Obituary: Alex, the talking parrot

Alex, an exceptional African gray parrot, has died in his cage at Brandeis University at the age of 31.
Alex was the subject of a decades-long experiment to see if a parrot could go beyond mimicking words and apply them to objects and events the way humans do. The answer was a limited, but still impressive, "yes." Alex learned over 100 words and could use them in simple sentences and even conversations, such as asking for the red box out of a collection of differently-colored shapes. He could count up to six and apparently understood the concept of zero. "He was so extraordinary in breaking the perceptions of birds as not being intelligent," said his lifelong trainer and lab partner, Irene Pepperberg, who compared his intellect to a five-year-old child's.

Thanks to Kris Winkler for pointing me to this story.

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