Avian Expert Articles

Echo The African Grey Parrot Is Zoo’s “Artist In Residence”

African grey parrot standing on table in front of paint canvas
Echo the African grey parrot dazzles zoo staff and visitors alike with her artwork. Image courtesy of the Maryland Zoo

The steps in which art is created display a unique expression of interests and an ability for patience. It takes time to create. Choosing colors, making brushstrokes that go on to become a definition of something, and the patience to stay with something that is involving all reveal a dedication for a result. For others, not only does a developing artwork provide an avenue for expression, but it also allows for a needed preoccupation that others do not have a tolerance for. That’s the beauty of art. No one does it the same, and not everyone is capable of it. But, in the end, the finished work is for everyone.

A Touch Of Grey On Display

The Maryland Zoo, situated in Baltimore, is spread out over 135-plus acres. Its main distinction is that it is the third-oldest zoo in the United States. While it is home to approximately 135 species of beautiful creatures from around the world, one of its other distinctions is an African grey parrot named Echo. Echo is a 22-year-old female parrot who has found it a good idea to paint abstract art. And paint she does.

Recently, the zoo posted a video on its Twitter feed that shows Echo taking a sponge dipped in non-toxic paint. She then goes to a canvas, whereby she rubs the surface with a rich display of colors. She is being taught by what the zoo refers to as the “Embassy care staff” to decorate the paper with the dipped sponge of paint. During the process, Echo is rewarded with treats to encourage the next brushstroke. As the video shows, her work is done in dabs overlapping other colors to fill up the surface. Echo is avidly social, and quite an intelligent and confident parrot. She has painted publicly and interacts well with the public.

Smart African Greys

The Embassy staff believes that the painting projects that Echo participates in help to keep her mentally stimulated. What is known about the African grey species is that they are quite smart. They reveal a strong intelligence that is seen as being on par with that of a 5-year-old child. Their skill levels expand to more than just parroting back vocally what they hear. They can also do a variety of other things that underscore their ability to think. Past studies have revealed that the African grey parrot can differentiate between colors and shapes, even words! Therefore, a work much like the one Echo is creating in the video — and others she has already created — can unveil a reflection of what might be going through her mind. After all, art is an extremely personal undertaking.

In the kind of art normally described as abstract art, Echo has created her own masterpieces. A quick review of abstract art shows that a combined collection of colors in uniquely chosen brushstrokes can be deeply interpreted by many observers of art. It can represent thousands of things to reflective appreciators of the style. The fact that interpretation lies in the minds and hearts of many different people amplifies the unique beauty of the pieces that Echo creates.

The Maryland Zoo wonders if Echo will become “the next bird-casso.” We’re equally excited to discover the future works of Echo as she becomes more independently entrenched in her painting.

2 thoughts on “Echo The African Grey Parrot Is Zoo’s “Artist In Residence”

  1. Thanks for showing us Echo and telling about her. My African Congo grey, Buddy, has been my companion for over 42 years and I’ve had her since she was imported around one year old.

  2. Echo, the great Bird Artist, is an amazing intelligent parrot. I believe CAGP birds can be encouraged to do almost anything. My CAGP is too smart for her own good, just kidding. Raphaelle is a 32 yr female and her intelligence gets her into trouble at least 4 times per week. She learns quickly, from watching, hearing the radio, people talking, just about anywhere at any time. Thank you for this article, very nice.

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