Category: Behavior

African grey parrot

Webinar “Tune In To Your Birds Daily Habits”

Webinar: “Tune In To Your Birds Daily Habits” Date: Friday, April 3, 2020 Time: 12:00 – 12:30pm PST (double-check your local time with this time zone converter) Join us for a live, interactive webinar hosted by Laura Doering, former editor of Bird Talk magazine and Birds USA magazine. Our special guest Stephanie Lamb, DVM, DABVP […]

African grey parrot

Tune In To Your Bird’s Daily Habits

Many of us are having to stay home from work, school and other social activities to reduce the chances of coming into contact with and spreading the COVID-19 disease. Although this time of self-isolation may be challenging, it can also be thought of as an occasion to spend a little more time with our feathered friends and other pets. As pet owners are at home and observing their birds at times where they may not normally, they may discover that their birds tend to follow routines daily, just like we do!

Dr Pepperberg nose to beak with African grey named Griffin

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Life In The Time Of Coronavirus

What’s an academic science lab to do when e-mails from the administration start popping up stating in-person instruction was to cease immediately, followed by directives to vacate the campus in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? What if said science lab was home to a flock of parrots known around the world for their contributions to the study of cognitive behavior? Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her research assistants found themselves in a scramble to ensure everyone— birds and humans — found safe places to stay. See where everyone is now.

African grey portrait

Comparative Cognition — The Joys & Difficulties

A lot of planning goes into creating ways to test the parrots’ intelligence to see how they perform on tasks compared to the results of those undertaken by children and primates. But what happens when two hands are required to solve a problem? Dr. Pepperberg describes the challenges and possible solutions to an intelligence test to circumvent the fact that parrots are hands-free.

members of sun parakeet project

The Parakeet Rangers of Guyana

One Earth Conservation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization co-founded by Dr. LoraKim Joyner, who has worked in parrot conservation for over three decades. The organization encourages communities in Latin America to support and/or get involved in parrot conservation. Here Dr. Joyner gives us a peek at a recent sun parakeet outreach project in Guyana.

African grey

A Test To See If Parrots Are Willing To Help Each Other

Are parrots willing to help a fellow parrot even though there appears to be nothing in it for them? A team of behavioral scientists put blue-headed macaws and African grey parrots to the test. See which of the two species passes the parrot kindness test.

African grey parrot

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Can African Greys Spot Which Container Holds More Liquid?

African grey parrots Athena and Griffin are tasked with the challenge of tracking the larger amount of liquid that is poured into various containers to test their grasp of the concept of “overconservation,” where the experimenter starts with different amounts and tests whether the subjects can track the larger amount after various transformations. See where the parrots succeeded as well as what tended to slip them up on this highly challenging task.

Amazon parrot

Parrot Behavior Consultants: Who They Are & How They Can Help

Life with a parrot companion can sometimes mean dealing with a situation that you don’t quite understand or that might be causing discord in the home. A certified parrot behavior consultant can help. Learn what it takes to be certified, and how these specialists can assist you.

African grey parrot

Do Parrots Understand What You Are Saying?

Can birds understand what their people are saying and/or understand what he or she is saying? Dr. Irene Pepperberg says the answer depends on the type of interactions parrots have with their owners. Discover how the way you interact with your feathered companion, as well as flock dynamics, can influence parrot communication.

African grey on perch by window

Pepperberg’s Lab: African Greys Get a Skyline View

Dr. Pepperberg takes us inside her Harvard lab, where African grey parrots Griffin and Athena call home. We also get a look at their cushy temporary quarters on the building’s eighth floor, complete with a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline. The panoramic view comes with potential visual encounters with a pair of red-tailed hawks—see how the greys react.

African grey parrot looking at keys

Pepperberg’s Lab: When Parrots Go “Off-Script”

Dr. Pepperberg’s work with parrots revolves around reproducing behaviors using scientific methods to attain statistical significance. Of course, parrots being parrots, there are plenty of incidents where one of her African greys says or does something that perfectly captures their mood or preference, but which cannot be scientifically documented. African grey Griffin, like Alex before him, certainly knows how to get his point across to Pepperberg and her research students. See how these anecdotes provide interesting insights into how the mind of a parrot may work.

eyes and nose of a dog

Birds & Other Pets: Why You Need To Be On Guard

If you share your home with companions of both the feathered and furred kind, you might long to see your pets hang out together and be best friends. But before you do, these real-life situations prove that the hazards are real and the consequences potentially tragic.

African grey headshot

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Why Study Parrot Cognition?

Studies of nonhuman cognition have made, and continue to make, major contributions to our understanding of the origins and evolution of human cognitive processes, and much more. Parrot cognition studies in particular have a positive impact on pet bird care, conservation, child cognitive therapies, and even artificial intelligence. See what drives Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s passion for parrot research.

two budgies (parakeets) beak to beak

Female Budgies Prefer Puzzle-Solving Males & Other Bird-Centric News Stories

In this bird-centric news roundup, see the tricky way researchers got female budgies to ditch their preferred mates to those trained to solve puzzles, as well as learn as well as who packs a more powerful bite—T-Rex or finch? Also see how the engineering marvels of a birds’ feathers might one day inspire better adhesives and aerospace materials, and meet Alex the honking cockatiel, the viral sensation that saw his fame inexplicably explode across the internet.

yellow crown amazon parrot

How Good is a Parrot’s Long-Term Memory?

How well do parrots remember situations, other parrots, and people over the course of their long lives? Dr. Pepperberg, gives us a rundown on research that points to parrots as having brain areas that function in ways similar to the human cortex, and how their extremely high neural densities enable advanced cognitive processing—which requires good memory.

starlings in flight creating murmuration

In Sync: Starlings’ Mesmerizing Murmuration

Chances are, you’ve witnessed a murmuration of starlings. A murmuration is when a mass of starlings fly in a coordinated manner in what appears to be a moving black cloud. Discover how these birds are able to be so in sync.

African Grey Parrot on a perch looks at two differenty sized and colored plastic cups

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Putting Parrots’ Inferential Knowledge To The Test

When her colleagues at Harvard questioned Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s 2-cup test success that showed parrots are capable of inferential knowledge to make decisions, Pepperberg and students at her cognitive behavior research lab upped the ante from the 2-cup test to 3- and 4-cup tests. They once again put African grey Griffin to the test. See how Griffin fared, especially when a coveted Skittle treat reward was at stake.

caique portrait

Could a Pet Parrot Be Happy in Captivity?

Is it possible for a pet parrot to be as happy in captivity as they would be in the wild? Is parrot ownership more like prison … or could it be like a happy, perpetual childhood experience? As a bird mom to three cockatoos and a parrotlet, it is a question with which I wrestle […]

African grey parrot

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Fish &  Parrots  Outperform Apes & Monkeys

If you put parrots (specifically, African grey parrots), fish, monkeys and apes to the test on who could figure the fastest way to procure two rewards instead of one, who would come out on top? Dr. Pepperberg and friends of her cognitive behavior research lab recently modeled a test for her flock to see how they would fair in a choice-themed task inspired by wrasse fish, and tested on primates as well.

head of cockatoo

Teach Your Bird to Communicate “Yes” and “No”

We like to make our own choices when it comes to what we eat, what we do for entertainment and everything in between. What if we could extend this power to our parrots — give them the ability to communicate what they want and what they don’t want? Here’s a step-by-step approach to teaching your bird to communicate “Yes” or “No.”

african grey training

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 nose to beak with African grey named 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 looks at two differenty sized and colored plastic cups

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 getting head scritches

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.

head shot of 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.

golden firework exploding in night sky

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 walking

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.

close up of face of 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.

head shot of 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 on branch; inset shows diagram of brain

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 perch 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.

close up of budgie / parakeet on finger

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?

cockatiel on cage

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?

Cockatiel posed before an orange background

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.

close up of budgie / parakeet on finger

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.

close up of yellow budgie / parakeet

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.

close up of cockatiel face

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.

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