Listening to Alex

Vocalisation abilities of parrots

source: Gail Vines
based on interview with Irene Pepperberg, researcher from University of Arizona
New Scientist January 15 2000
starts p40, 4 pages long

Parrots are able to vocalise and recognise objects by shape and colour. They are unable to learn from videos. They can imitate inanimate objects, like microwaves, in captivity, though they do not do this in the wild. Microwaves may seem significant for captive birds, since they are related to food.

Alex, a grey parrot, tells his owner he wants to be on her shoulder if he is put elsewhere, so he is aware of the meaning of the language he uses. Alex does not appear to use words creatively, though he has said 'banerry' for apple, which may mean a fruit like a banana and a cherry. He may expect trainers to provide new words for new objects he is provided with. Parrots can live to be 60-years-old, and Alex is 23-years-old.