bird brains
February 2019 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.

While parrots are smart with bird brains that let them speak with meaning, Dolly the Parrot questions if this can help people learn what is smarter than a talking bird.

Parrots are smart. African Grey and Blue Fronted Amazons rank highly for high-quality speaking. Compare the size of a parrot's head to its body. It is of genius size. Brain size indicates intelligence.

Irene Pepperberg PhD informed the world about parrot intelligence. Alex, a parrot, spoke with meaning and processed abstract communication. In articles and books, Dr. Pepperberg aspired to improve treatment of birds.

Birds are advanced relatives of reptiles and amphibians. Parrots may not do as well as chimpanzees on memory tests. However, Dr. Pepperberg's model/rival techniques may conquer learning disabilities.

A talking parrot does not just say words. Parrots copy sounds, whistling and laughter. Businesses use animal-talent agents to find perfect feathered actors. Researchers have intelligence tests for birds.

Studies show team players may be smarter than lone counterparts. Parrots may not answer as expected. They may decide to be contrary or silent. They have minds of their own.

Birds are symbols of freedom and creativity. This may keep them from ranking as high among people as “man's best friend”. Training may help pets and owners get along better.

Birds do not talk to make noise. Tests of bird brains are not complete. There are no tests to fully show which animals and birds are smarter than others. What matters is intelligence for survival.

Attention helps learning. It takes a lot of time, patience and treats to prepare any animal for camera-ready or live performances. A warm bond and care for the animal's special needs goes into making a star.

Parrots make many different sounds. Some bird owners, bird lovers and bird breeders complain that parrots are noisy. They have tired of the constant screeches, squawks, whistles, chirps and words of their birds.

Some people may wish they could undo speech lessons. They may think another pet might be smarter. What they really may need is something quiet, like a fish. Dreams of chirping birds are said to mean joy and harmony.

Birds deserve credit for sound choices. Elephants have huge brains. They may understand human language well. They cannot say words. Parrots understand ideas and emotions.

Birds solve problems to reach goals. A bird must be trained properly to perform on command. Birds have the smarts to do things on their own. For example, they do not need equipment or maps to travel.

Parrots tell shapes, colors and things by name. Parrots are smart and curious about the use of tools. The use of tools improves the abilities given by nature. Tools help animals better accomplish needed tasks.

Birds dig with sticks and pound nuts to open them. Parrots may work in flocks. They are able to distinguish friends from foes. Unlike dolphins, parrots may not recognize themselves in mirrors.

Parrots like squawking parrot toys. Octopuses may like some people better than others. Animals' have different preferences and reactions to conditions, things, sounds, activities, individuals and other animals.

Praise and treats aid training. Consistency is important. It helps to start with easy words and lessons. Different treats may be preferred by different birds. Treats are not a good test of intelligence.

Everyone may learn faster when rewarded. Dogs learn well with treats. The treats may be different, but people also work for rewards. During training, it is important to be aware of individual needs.

Lessons must end well. New goals can be added after lessons are successful. Training is exhausting. It is best to stop when a goal is reached. This approach also is useful in human education.

Training provides stimulation and discipline. There must be positivity. It is therapeutic to forge good relations between learners and trainers. Birds help people understand nature.

A nest is said to have good meaning. Birds represent health and family stability. Like any team member, parrots may need no push to perform. The evolution from noise to high-level speech may follow that of people.

Parrots live long lives. Their development is long and slow. They may stay with their family until the age of one year. Like people, they cannot survive independently to adulthood.

Birds learn for survival. They learn seasons and locations of foods. They hide and find food. They feel coming storms and ambient changes. They may be smarter than people about the living world.

Animals treated like stars may become stars. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology has a mission to conserve, research and involve citizens in the science and biodiversity of birds.

Parrots avoid work. Birds are seen as a bridge between freedom of the sky and ties to the world. To rest and have fun, they may prefer someone deliver their food. Smart people often delegate work to others.

Parrots are creative. They sing and dance. A musical beat does not evade them. All music may not appeal to all birds. Some music may be upsetting. Other music may have calming effects.

Does this differ from human preferences? Numbers? Who wants the second dance with Dolly? Everyone can develop her skills, talents, creativity, charisma and “it factor”.