bird brains
February 2018 by V. R. Duin


“She's perfect”, said Lucy with a great big smile.
“But to teach her to talk will take a while.”
They named their noisy parrot Dolly.
Lucy was thrilled that the name rhymed with Molly.

“Dolly the Parrot”, a talking parrot, wants everyone to know that parrots are smart. Parrots can speak with meaning and process abstract communication. Bird brains also may help people overcome learning disabilities.

Certainly, a lack of intelligence does not characterize a parrot. Compare the size of a parrot's head to its body. It is of genius proportions when compared to their reptile and amphibian relatives! Parrots are smart birds, thanks to their amazing bird brains. A talking parrot does not merely mimic words. Parrots also can imitate sounds, such as whistling and laughter. Parrots are able to speak with meaning. Entertainment and advertising businesses turn to animal-talent agents to find the perfect large or small feathered actor for a leading role in an anticipated hit. Researchers have developed bird specific intelligence tests. Team players are generally smarter than their solitary counterparts.

Parrots are team players. However, there should be no surprise if parrots do not always answer in the manner in which one might expect. A talking parrot might decide not to respond to a communication. Parrots are smart, and they have minds of their own. Birds are considered symbols of freedom and creative thinking. Birds do not always talk for the sake of talking. The advanced nature of bird brains that allows parrots to speak with meaning also enables them to become independent thinkers. It can take a lot of time, patience and treats to mold a talking bird to camera-ready or live performance level. A comfortable bond and familiarity with the bird's special needs must be developed to create a star.

There are bird owners, bird lovers and bird breeders who complain that parrots are noisy birds. These individuals complain about the attention-getting screeches, squawks, whistles, chirps and the repetitive use of human sounds their birds have learned. Dreams of chirping birds are interpreted to represent joy and harmony. Shouldn't birds deserve credit for their choice of sounds? Parrots are smart and curious. Parrots are able to process abstract information involving ideas and emotions. They use their advanced bird brains to speak with meaning and solve logical problems that accomplish their goals. The chosen bird must be trained in the right environment and fed positive energy to perform on cue. Birds are capable of complex behaviors. They do not require satellite equipment to guide them in extended flight migrations.

Thanks to their amazing bird brains, parrots can speak with meaning as they identify shapes, colors and things by name. Like people and primates, parrots are smart about the use of tools. Parrots use tools to extend the abilities given to them by nature. Birds dig with sticks and pound nuts against solid objects to crack them. Parrots also are known to work as a flock to accomplish a goal. Social animals require an ability to distinguish friend from foe. Birds and other animals may have a predictive ability that senses the arrival of storms and other natural events. Before a talking bird can be trained, the bird owner must get to know the particularities of this particular bird and figure out how it perceives and reacts to situations, objects, sounds, individuals and other animals introduced into its environment.

Because parrots are smart, parrots like to receive treats in return for accomplishments. The positive reinforcement of praise and treats are useful in the training of all animals. With the training of any person or animal, it is important to be consistent and to start with simple words and commands. Different treats may be preferred by different birds. Doesn't everyone learn faster when rewarded with treats and toys of choice? The treats may be different, but people also work for rewards they want and like. As with people, parrots live long lives, so their developmental period is slow. The evolution of bird brains that enables them to speak with meaning also may help people overcome learning disabilities. During the training process, it is important to be conscious of individual needs in order to forge a bond.

Methods used in the training and language development of talking parrots may be useful in human education. For instance, understanding the abstract communication process of birds may help teach autistic and learning-challenged children. The way bird brains advance from to talking to speaking with meaning may serve in special education. The development of human speech and the teaching of the basic building blocks of language require the transmission of positive energy from the source to the target animal or person. The process is therapeutic and exhausting, so it means stopping whenever a goal is reached. Each session must end well, then repeated successfully before further advancements can be made.

Parrots are social creatures. A nest in the environment has fortunate meaning. Birds carry good karma of health and family stability. Like any member of a team, parrots rarely need a big push to do a meaningful task. Parrots tend to stay within their family group until the age of one year. For survival, bird brains are advanced. Parrots not only learn where to find food, they learn the harvesting seasons of different varieties of plants. They can hide food and find it, when needed. Bird Intelligence and instincts must be respected in the training process. Birds will work with those individuals and in those situations that make them comfortable. A parrot that is treated like a star, may become a star.

That parrots can speak with meaning is not to say that parrots will not use their bird brains to avoid work. Birds are often seen as a bridge between the freedom of the sky and the mundane world. Parrots prefer that someone deliver their food, so they can rest and have fun. Is this so different from the preferences of people? Parrots also know how to sing and dance, so a musical beat does not evade them. However, all genres of music may not meet with similar appeal. Some music may agitate, while other music may have a calming effect. Numbers? Who wants the second dance with Dolly, the talking parrot? Let's do our homework and apply our brains to develop the skills, talents, creativity, charisma and “it factor” of any celebrated actor, human or animal.

Parrots are Smart

  • Speak with Meaning Dolly says:

    Irene Pepperberg, PhD at Harvard, informed the world that parrots are smart in articles and books about her decades with Alex, a parrot proven scientifically to speak with meaning.

  • Parrots are Smart Dolly says:

    In Dr. Pepperberg's mission to improve respect and treatment of birds, she proved parrots are smart enough to process abstract communication.

    • bird brainsDolly says:

      Some researchers believe Dr. Pepperberg's model/rival technique discovered in her work with bird brains holds promise for individuals with learning disabilities.