Category: Behavior

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: African Grey Parrots Show Self-Control

  Grey parrots may sometimes be impulsive—think about how often you may have had to give your bird multiple timeouts for the same behavior (like chewing on your sunglasses) in a very short time period. However, my students and I have shown that our parrot, Griffin, can actually exhibit quite a bit of self-control. We […]

African grey portrait

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Why Parrots Play Favorites

Dr. Pepperberg notes that she and her staff at her cognitive behavior research lab haven’t noticed a one-person tendency among her flock of birds; but she has experienced the avian equivalent of the “cold shoulder” from time to time. Get a glimpse of how flock dynamics can fluctuate in the wild and how parrots’ natural instincts might affect their behavior in the home.

African grey

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: When Parrots Speak Their Mind…Or Not

If you are the director of a world-famous animal cognitive behavior research lab, what do you do when your feathered diva doesn’t follow directions? Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her assistants start by having African grey Athena watch her flockmate Griffin perform a requested task with the hope that she’ll be inspired to model his behavior. When that fails, see how Athena has her own way of proving just how smart parrots are.

African grey parrot on a perch

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Do Parrots Understand Probability?

To test a parrot’s ability to understand probability, Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s cognitive behavior research lab recently presented African grey parrot Griffin with a task similar to what a 6-8 year-old child might be tasked to do — using three of one item and one of another, if one item was removed, what was the removed item likely to be? Griffin’s answers might surprise you.

african grey parrot

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Prepping For A Film Crew Visit

Inviting a film crew into a research lab devoted to the study of cognitive behavior in parrots involves not only prepping the lab, but the parrots and the filmmakers. Dr. Irene Pepperberg shares her account of having a film crew join her in the lab.

Congo African Grey Parrot on a cage

How Dr. Pepperberg Taught Parrots To Use Speech Appropriately

Early on in her behavioral research with Alex the African grey, Dr. Irene Pepperberg began incorporating what she refers to as the model/rival (M/R) system to teach a parrot how to speak and how to use speech appropriately, which also allows the bird to verbally communicate requests.

Dr Pepperberg Griffin

Parrots Find Creative Ways To Delay Bedtime

With cognitive abilities matching that of a 5-6 year old, African grey parrots can likewise come up with some creative distractions to delay bedtime. This month, Dr. Pepperberg gives us a look back at the bedtime antics of Alex the African grey, as well as how current greys Griffin and Athena attempt to throw a wrench in attempts at a good night routine.

African grey parrot on a perch

Parrots Can Play Mind Games

Research with parrots leads to some unexpected results. Some pleasant, like learning words that weren’t trained, and some unpleasant, like acting out.

African Grey Parrot on a perch

Day in the Life of Pepperberg’s Parrots

Curious to know what an average day is like in Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s research lab on the Harvard campus? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of African greys Griffin and Athena!

African Grey Parrot being pet

Dr. Pepperberg Dishes On Parrots & Preening

Parrots often solicit humans by putting their heads down and rubbing against their humans’ fingers; some will even learn to request “Tickle,” “Scritch,” or “Scratch.” Despite being subjects of scientific study, the birds in my lab are no exception, and they have influenced their trainers’ behavior in some striking ways.

yellow and blue macaw

Complex Intelligence Defines Bird Brained

It appears that the part of the brain that corresponds to the forebrain, the pallium in birds, has a much higher concentration of neurons or the brain cells packed in the same amount of space than many primates.

Fireworks

A Safe & Sane Fourth of July For Your Bird

If your bird startles at the sound of a slammed door, car alarm or other loud, unexpected noise, the Fourth of July might not be the easiest holiday for your feathered friend to handle. Here are some preemptive steps to take to help your bird remain stress-free around Independence Day.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Pet Parrots & Ground Foraging

Parrots in the wild spend good part of the day on foot looking for items to munch. And so it stands to reason that the parrots in our homes might also enjoy walking on their own two feet to see what they can find. Here are some tips for creating a bottom play and foraging area for your pet bird.

Vasa parrot, black parrot

How Smart Are Parrots? They Use Tools Too!

Research on Vasa parrots from the University of York and University of St. Andrews that point to the first documentation of nonhuman use of tools for grinding, and one of only a few reports of nonhuman animals sharing tools directly. See the Vasa parrots’ tool of choice to grind calcium powder from shells.

blue-fronted Amazon parrot

Do Parrots Get Depressed?

Behavior offers clues on your bird’s mental state. Lack of appetite, feather picking, and changing habits might indicate an emotional struggle.

budgie parakeet

Why Parrots Can Talk

From budgerigars to African Greys to macaws, nine parrot species in a university study reveal why certain bird species are better at imitating sounds than other birds. Hint: It’s got a lot to do with the structure of the brain.

Black headed Caique in a cage

5 Ways You Freak Your Pet Bird Out

If you don’t understand the instincts, needs, and anatomy of your parrot friend, problems can quickly arise. Interrupting your bird’s snooze time or switching food abruptly are just two ways you can ruin your bird’s day. Learn what not to do so both you and your bird live harmoniously.

quaker parakeet, quaker parrot, monk parakeet, monk parrot

Types of Parrot Play

Every bird has a play personality — from explorer to destroyer, and many more. Knowing your bird’s style of play can help you zero in on the types of toys and interactions your bird enjoys most.

Small Birds Do Talk!

Bigger birds aren’t the only ones talking. In fact, some of the smaller parrots are capable of mimicking human speech and can even amass impressive vocabularies. Here’s a look at some of the tiny talkers of the pet bird world.

Two green winged macaws in the wild

Parrot Breeding Biology In The Wild & In The Home

Knowing what in-home conditions can inadvertently mimic breeding season in the wild can help us lessen or deter hormonal behavior inside the home. Find out how cage placement and the food you offer can affect your bird’s behavior.

cockatiel, singing cockatiel, cockatiel sounds

Cockatiel Behavior: Brilliantly Baffling

Cockatiels can be every bit a parrot as their larger counterparts — friendly and outgoing to snugly and gentle — no wonder these little feathered companions are America’s Top Bird. But ever stop to think if your cockatiel is normal?

bird on pumpkin

What Scares Your Pet Bird

Halloween is just around the corner. We are scared of zombies and ghosts, and perhaps even the thought of a whole community of children eating sugar. But what’s scary to your small companion bird?

Food for Cockatiels

3 Tricks Your Cockatiel Can Do

Small birds like the friendly and outgoing cockatiel can be taught to do behaviors on cue — and it’s easier than you think. Our small companion birds have many natural behaviors that lend themselves nicely to trick training.

Tips To Get Your Bird Back In The Cage

Our small birds love their time out of the cage. How do we know this? We know because sometimes it’s soooo difficult to get them back in the cage. Plan for this by training your pet bird. Here are some tips to try for when you need to get your small bird back in the cage, now.

budgerigar, parakeet, budgie

3 Tricks Your Budgie Can Do!

There are many behaviors that a budgie will do naturally. With some practice, you can give a cue for the natural behavior, and then have a nice behavior your budgie can perform upon request.

Spotlight on Female Parrots

Female birds tend to fly under the radar, so to speak, when compared to their flashier male counterparts. In many bird species, including parrots, the males have the more eye-catching colors. It’s time, however, to give our feathered girls time in the spotlight.

cockatiel, 'tiel

Why Cockatiels Make Great Pets

Most of the qualities you’d really like in a parrot are found in the gentle, amenable cockatiel. Read on to find out what makes cockatiels such a wonderful pet.

Green Cheeked Conure

Conures: Sun Vs. Green Cheek

No wonder conures are a popular pet bird companion. They are smart, active, cuddly, and social. There are many species of conure, and each group has its own unique set of traits. See the similarities and differences between the fiery-colored Sun conure of the Aratinga genus to the diminutive green-cheeked conure of the Pyrrhura genus.

Green Parakeet

Perks of Owning a Pet Parakeet

Parakeets as pets are a manageable size, entertaining, social, and talkative. Small enough to fit in your apartment and travel with you, parakeets can make great pets. Check out these 7 perks of sharing your life with a parakeet.

African grey parrot

New Pepperberg Research: Can Parrots Share?

Sharing seems to be less common in our nonhuman primate relatives, and appears to occur only under some fairly specific conditions. But what about creatures that are not primates? Our recent studies suggest that African grey parrots also can engage in sharing behavior.

Pacific parrotlet

Lovebird or Parrotlet?

At a glance, parrotlets and lovebirds look a lot alike. What do these short-tailed, compact birds from entirely different continents have in common, and what makes them different?

Lovebirds As Pets

No other companion pet has a name quite as endearing as a lovebird. The lovebird’s genus, Agapornis, is the words “love” and “bird” joined together — agape is Greek for “love” and ornis is Greek for “bird.”

PeachFaced love bird

Small Bird Taming & Training Basics

Don’t let the small size of your small parrot – your budgie, cockatiel or lovebird – deter you from teaching him or her some behaviors on cue. Some commands are really helpful in managing your pet bird. Here are three things to teach your small pet bird.

Umbrella cockatoo

Tips To Get Your Parrot To Be Quiet

Does covering the cage or running toward your bird to tell him/her to quiet down … or screaming back … sound familiar? If you find yourself in need of a little quiet time and your parrot is simply not getting it, here are tips and tricks to stop the screech.

lovebird, masked lovebird

Parrots As Pets

You may be a pet person. You’ve had a dog or a cat for a pet, and maybe several of each. But now you’re a bird owner. Wow! Here are some of the things that make companion birds interesting, and things that make them different from dogs and cats.

budgie / parakeet

Budgie Sounds

Budgies (parakeets) chatter a lot, as budgie owners will have noticed. What does all that chatter mean? Here are some common budgie sounds and what they might mean.

African grey parrot

Stress Reduction for Companion Parrots

To put it bluntly, keeping companion parrots is similar to trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. The fact that they do as well as they do is testimony more to their adaptability than it is to our husbandry efforts.

African grey parrot, grey, African grey toy

Uncover The Pitfalls Of Problem Behaviors in Pet Birds

Parrots are wonderful if you have a low tolerance for boredom like I do. Despite living and working with them for over three decades, I still find their complexities stimulating and the study of their behaviors both fascinating and absorbing.

Fun With Food for Your Pet Bird

Food plays an essential role in the survival of every living creature. It can also be a source of great pleasure. Animal trainers, behaviorists, pet owners, and, yes, parents of small children, use food in a number of creative ways. Most people love giving their animals friends food treats.

quaker parakeet, quaker parrot, monk parakeet, monk parrot

Parrot Toys: What Are We Going to Chew Today?

Providing projects that occupy busy beaks and stimulate avian Einsteins is one of the never-ending challenges of parrot ownership. The quest for that perfect bird toy takes us trekking to innumerable pet shops and bird marts, and pouring through countless catalogs.

Finch

Finch Or Canary — What’s The Difference?

If you’re considering adding a finch or a canary to your family, you might be surprised to find that a canary is a finch. Zebra finches, society finches, also called Bengalese finches, and canaries actually have a lot in common.

Green Parakeet

Budgie Vs. Cockatiel — Which Is Right For You?

For years, budgies, also called parakeets, were the most numerous companion birds, and only recently were overtaken by cockatiels. If you’re looking at getting one or the other, how do they compare?

budgie and toy, parakeet and toy, blue budgie, blue parakeet

Top Toys For Parakeets

Give your budgie (aka “parakeet”) some toys! You will be wildly entertained as your budgie plays, and your budgie will stay active and engaged without getting into any mischief from boredom.

cockatiel, singing cockatiel, cockatiel sounds

Cockatiel Sounds Explained

Chirps, warbles, whistles, squawks, cheeps, and more are noises and sounds pet cockatiels make. Find out what your cockatiel is trying to say.

How Liz Wilson Helped Avian Veterinarians

I remember the first thing that Liz wanted all parrot owners to do when they first got their bird and especially if they were having a problem: she wanted them to take it to their avian vet!

Swift Parrots & Orange-Bellied Parrots: Rare Migrators

Almost all parrots are non-migratory birds, that is, they do not fly to a different climate during specific times of the year. There are two parrot species, however, that do migrate in the truest sense of the word — the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) and the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster).

What Liz Wilson Taught Us

I had the pleasure of working with many avian experts throughout my years as editor of Bird Talk magazine, but none was quite like avian behavioral consultant Liz Wilson.

Liz with black Palm Cockatoo

Renowned Companion Parrot Behaviorist Liz Wilson Passes Away

The bird community lost a special member when long-time parrot advocate and well-respected author Liz Wilson, CVT, passed away on April 13, 2013. Liz was the voice behind the popular parrot behavior column “Parrot Psychology,” which ran in Bird Talk magazine for many years and, up until her passing, was a monthly feature on LafeberCares.com.

aggressive military macaw

Accidental Rewards for Pet Bird Aggression

There is no such thing as a parrot biting for no reason. No such thing. It is, however, common for a parrot to bite for no reason that humans understand. BIG difference.

rainbow lorikeet

4 Easy Ways To Deter Breeding Behavior

Find out why you might want to rethink your pet bird’s cage setup, how long you leave the lights on, the type of foods you feed, and even the way you pet and interact with your bird.

head and shoulders of a blue and gold macaw eating

Parrot Behavior: What Are You Actually Rewarding?

A fundamental rule of behavior is that no animal, human or otherwise, continues a behavior if it isn’t reinforced. These rewards are crucial to identify and understand because they are the reason that our birds continue to present behaviors that we do not like.

Parrot Baby

15 Things Every Parrot Owner Should Do

Check out part two of Liz’s Parrot Psychology column “Do’s & Don’ts For Living With Parrots: Part II, The Do’s.” This LafeberCares exclusive will help you and your pet bird get on the right track in the year ahead and beyond.

Life After Alex

Five years after Alex’s passing, he is still sorely missed; by me and, I believe, by Griffin and Arthur, the other African grey parrots in my lab. Days still exist, particularly when I return after a long absence, during which I walk into the laboratory, glance at the cage in the far corner of the room, and expect to be greeted by Alex’s familiar, imperious “Come here!”

Decipher Your Pet Parrot’s Vocalizations

Parrots can be extremely vocal critters, and you can find out a lot about your pet parrot’s mood by the sounds it makes. What’s behind that laugh, the gibberish talk, or why the ear-piercing shriek?

African grey parrot, Congo African grey, CAG

Learn the Polite Way to Train Your Parrot

Politeness means accepting that our parrots should not be expected to wait around in the hopes that we will choose to interact with them. They have their own lives, after all, and they have a right to choose not to interact with us whenever we might wish it. It means not expecting them to be at our beck and call.

colorful parrot

“Parronting” Styles with Parrots

Since it behooves us to periodically examine our relationships with our parrots, we should consider these different parenting approaches in terms of our pet birds.

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