Category: Editor Choice

African grey parrot, grey

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Comparing Contrafreeloading in Kea & Grey Parrots

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg tells us about a study in which African greys Griffin and Athena, along with a few companion greys, were tested to see if they would work for food just for the fun of it. The study centered on the concept of “contrafreeloading” and involves working for food that could simultaneously be obtained for free. Interestingly, the same experiment was done with wild Kea parrots. See the different outcomes, as well as what parrot species is next in line to be put to the contrafreeloading test.

African grey parrot

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Play Is the Thing—If It Is the Right Type!

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg talks about individual preferences when it comes to parrots and toys. She gives us a glimpse of African greys Griffin and Athena’s favorite toys and their play styles. From paper and spoons to flannel and softwood, see who likes what. Dr. Pepperberg also reveals how Athena’s play behavior inspired a study on “countrafreeloading,” defined as working for food that can simultaneously be obtained for free.

August 26, 2022 Webinar

Webinar: A Unique Learning Retreat for Pet Bird Owners

In this webinar, our special guests Lisa Bono, CPBC, Ann Brooks, and Dr. Susan Orosz will discuss education as the key to being the best bird steward. You will go behind the scenes at the most recent Phoenix Landing Wellness Retreat, which offers a special learning opportunity for pet bird owners from experts in the field. Sign up and tune in on August 26!

chattering lory; lorikeet

Summer Heat & Our Birds

Summer—that sizzling time of the year when we try to stay hydrated and perhaps indulge in water-dense foods like watermelon and other juicy fruits. When exposed to the summer heat, we might break out in a sweat and seek shade to cool our bodies down. What about our feathered friends…how do they stay cool? Here are some interesting facts about birds and heat, and tips for helping our feathered companions stay comfortable all summer long.

African grey parrot

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Alex’s Numerical Abilities — Part II

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg takes us back to when Alex, her African grey protégé, and his numerical abilities: The challenge this time required that Alex comprehend the auditorially presented symbolic numeral label (e.g. “6”) and use its meaning to direct a search for the exact amount specified by that label (e.g. six things); that is, know exactly what a set of “X” individual items is, even when intermixed with other items representing different numerical sets, and he couldn’t just make approximations like label a set of five objects as “six” or “four.” Read on to see why, compared to young children on a similar task, Alex was more successful, and how this study led to an unexpected additional finding.

Spix's Macaw sitting on a tree branch

Rare Spix’s Macaws Reintroduced Back Into The Wild!

The last Spix’s macaw sighting in the wild was over 20 years ago. But, thanks to an exciting reintroduction program, this critically endangered parrot is once again flying free in its native habitat. Eight adult Spix’s macaws have recently been released back into the wild of Brazil.

African grey parrot Alex sits on top of cage bars

Dr. Pepperberg’s Avian Cognition Lab Celebrates 45th Anniversary!

The Alex Foundation celebrates a special milestone this week — the 45th anniversary of when Dr. Irene Pepperberg began her groundbreaking collaboration with Alex the African grey! In this very special blog, Dr. Pepperberg takes us back to the early days of convincing others that parrot intelligence was worth studying and redefining the term birdbrained.

Dr Pepperberg nose to beak with African grey named Griffin

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Alex’s Numerical Abilities — Part I

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg talks about how African grey Alex didn’t learn his numbers in the traditional sense, especially when compared to young children. Alex’s number studies were unique in many ways, which also allowed him to outperform some of the other nonhumans on certain tasks. Learn why Dr. Pepperberg started training Alex on the numbers “three” and “four,” first as well as which number posed the biggest phonetic challenge, and more in this Part 1 of a two-part series.

wild great green macaw flying

Lafeber’s Global Parrot Conservation Spotlight: The Great Green Macaws of Costa Rica

This month’s Lafeber Conservation spotlight takes us to Costa Rica, where the Macaw Recovery Network (MRN)is leading the charge to help increase the population numbers of the great green macaw. For a critically endangered species like the great greens, every egg matters. See the great lengths MRN goes through to give every egg a chance of hatching and fledging.

two African grey parrots eating a treat on a table

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Hatchday Celebrations — Updated!

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg emphasizes the mantra “happy lab equals happy parrots!” and the importance of celebrating milestones — both for the humans and the birds. This can be a challenge when working around revolving volunteer schedules. One celebration that can’t be missed is the parrots’ hatchday!

close up head and shoulder image of a perched cockatoo

New Study On Birds Links Large Brains With Longevity

A ground-breaking study undertaken by researchers at the Max Planck Society is the first to demonstrate a direct link between brain size and longevity. By creating a massive database, the research team was able to glean reliable estimates of the average life spans of 217 parrot species — more than half of all known species!

side view of perched Kea parrot

Lafeber’s Global Parrot Conservation Spotlight: New Zealand Keas

This month’s Lafeber Conservation spotlight takes us to New Zealand, where the NZ Parrot Trust is leading the charge to help increase the population numbers of the curious and sometimes mischievous Kea parrot — the only mountain parrot species in the world! Learn why these parrots’ ferocious chewing tendencies can pose a hazard to themselves, and what is being done to protect them.

Exotic Birds Get Help In Ukraine Crisis

Poland-based veterinarian Aleksandra Kornelia Maj has gone to great lengths to help evacuees of the Ukraine region who are entering Poland with their pet parrots. Dr. Maj offers free veterinary care to refugee birds, as well as remote help.

blue-and-gold macaws

Lafeber’s Global Parrot Conservation Spotlight: The Urban Birds Project–Macaws In The City Of Campo Grande, Brazil

Lafeber’s latest Conservation Spotlight takes us to the metropolitan city of Campo Grande, Brazil, where the Instituto Arara Azul is helping wild blue & golds and other macaws thrive in the city. As human encroachment consumes many parrot species’ native lands, helping them thrive in the city environments that encircle them is an innovative idea, and perhaps a critical one for the survival of some parrot species.

Lafeber’s Global Parrot Conservation Spotlight: Echo — The Parrots & People Of Bonaire

Lafeber’s latest Conservation Spotlight takes us to a small island in the Caribbean — Bonaire, home to the yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot. The conservation group Echo is dedicated to ensuring a stable and growing population of this endangered parrot by reducing habitat degradation, restoring the parrots’ habitat, and reducing the poaching of chicks.

African grey parrots

Inside Dr. Pepperberg’s Lab: Parrots On The Move—Again!

In her latest blog, Dr. Irene Pepperberg talks about African greys Griffin and Athena’s recent move into a spacious two-bedroom apartment. Surprisingly, the grey who typically doesn’t like change seems to be adjusting quicker than their flockmate. Dr. Pepperberg gives us the backstory.

African grey parrot

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Do Parrots Show Remorse?

When a prestigious behavior journal welcomed scientists to submit anecdotal observations of nonhuman actions that suggested possible comparisons with those of humans, a recent episode with African grey Griffin sprung to mind. Did Griffin show signs of remorse after delivering an unexpected bite?

African greys eating treat on table

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Parrots Adapt During Coronavirus Lockdown

Dr. Irene Pepperberg fills us in on how African greys Griffin and Athena, as well as she and her staff, are handling their “new normal,” albeit hopefully a temporary one. She also dishes on how they found some creative ways to celebrate two big milestones — the birds’ birthdays!

greenwing macaw on perch

Bird People Share: “What do you wish you knew before getting a parrot?”

Life with a pet bird companion can certainly be a life of adventure. You have a feathered friend with the intelligence, and often the mischievousness, of a young child. A pet that might be inclined to talk back, or perform aerobatic feats around your furniture and furnishings. Your bird might be a snuggle buddy who shows affection by gently preening your hair or brow. Intermixed with all that love and shenanigans comes everything in between — especially the unexpected. Here’s a snapshot of what some bird stewards wish they knew before getting a pet bird.

graphic of the COVID-19 virus

Webinar: “COVID-19 And Pet Birds”

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 (Avian Practice) will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, how it pertains to pet birds, and how we can keep our pets safe and healthy.

Amazon parrot eating leaves from perch in cage

Fresh Foraging Ideas To Try

Offering our bird’s foraging opportunities with pellets, Nutri-Berries, and healthy snacks is a great way to satisfy their work-for-food instincts. Other great foraging opportunities await with fresh, edible, non-toxic plants. In the wild, part of a bird’s search for food means tearing through a plant to get to the more desirable parts. It’s no surprise that parrots like to chew! Discover tips for creating an edible “foraging jungle” for your pet bird.

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.

Amazon Parrot

Fun Things To Do With Your Bird At Home

To keep safe during the coronavirus pandemic, many of us face spending most of our time at home. But being stuck indoors can seem less burdensome if we look for a silver lining each day—one being the opportunity to have fun with the flock!

African grey parrots on play gym

Why A Routine Helps The Flock & The Caregiver

A daily routine can give companion parrots a sense of security — knowing what’s in the plan for the day means they can look forward to timely meals/snacks, out-of-cage time, social interaction, and clean cages. Get inspired by the way Lisa Bono, CPBC, maintains a schedule that helps ensure she doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to caring for the flock.

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.

African grey parrots

Friends or Frenemies—How Well Do Parrots Interact with Each Other?

For parrots in the wild, flock dynamics include bonded pairs, siblings, and flockmates who forage for food together, play together, or simply co-exist with one another (and, of course, help keep a lookout for predators). What about companion parrots? Will two parrots get along? Dr. Pepperberg dishes on the interactions among her African grey parrots, as well as explains why it can be challenging so to predict how flock dynamics will play out inside the home.

African grey

Inside Pepperberg’s Lab: Vet Visits Are Essential

Dr. Pepperberg shares her experiences with taking African greys Griffin and Athena (and Alex before them) to the vet for their well-bird health checkups, which, with their verbal communication prowess, has led to some interesting vet interactions.

artist drawing of extinct parrot Heracles inexpectatus

World’s Largest Known Parrot Dwarfs All Others

Here’s one parrot you probably couldn’t host on your shoulder, or your hand for that matter. Meet Heracles inexpectatus, the world’s largest species of parrot, recently discovered by palaeontologists in New Zealand. Standing at more than 3 feet tall, this prehistoric parrot has also earned the nickname Squawkzilla.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

bird on pumpkin

Share These 4 Healthy Thanksgiving Foods

November is a month of harvesting the great bounty of the earth, including fall-season foods that are good for our companion birds to eat! Let’s start with the foods that are good for our birds at Thanksgiving!

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.

origami paper bird, recycle bird, go green

Pet Bird Owners Can Find New Uses For These Recyclables

From using newspaper as cage liner, cardboard as chew toys, to wadded-up paper to hide foraging treats, we bird owners can be quite creative in our thriftiness. Here are a few other items that can get a second life before going into the recycle bin.

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