Painting of parrot: the claudia moss galleries
can bark, cats can meow, chimps can even use sign language, to
communicate with us. Communication that falls outside of human language
is complex and diverse, from the waggle dance of honey bees (video) to the chemical communication of plants and trees (article).
But there is something marvelous about a non-human creature that can
speak to us with language, with our own language, with human language.
To hear human words curling from a bird’s tongue is entrancing. But do
those words mean anything? Or is it just mimicry? Is there intent
and/or emotion behind a parrot’s words and actions?
Pet parrot saves choking toddler
a pet Quaker parrot in the Denver, CO area, is being credited with
saving 2 year old Hannah Kuusk’s life. The toddler was choking on a pop
tart when the parrot began screaming and repeated the words “mama baby”
and over. The toddler’s caregiver was able to respond to the warning
and save the 2-year-old’s life. Read the full news story, with video, here.
parrot in the news is Fred, from Somerset England, who has had to be
put on antidepressants because of depression after his owner died.
Helen Dance said the death nine months
ago of her husband, George, who had raised the parrot from a chick,
took a heavy toll on Fred, an African Grey parrot, The Sun reported
said experts told her the parrot seemed to be suffering from a deep
depression because he could not understand George Dance’s sudden
widow said Fred had bitten off all of his neck feathers and spent most
of the day bobbing his head up and down.
However, she said the bird seems to be coming out of his inner
darkness now that he’s on a twice-daily liquid form of Prozac designed
for birds, known as Clomical.
Read the entire United Press International article.
about just how smart birds are abound. There’s also fascinating
scientific evidence delineating how bird intelligence works.
Alex the parrot, probably the most famous parrot ever, died this year at 31. Dr. Irene Pepperberg
bought Alex from a pet store in 1977. He subsequently became a research subject for scientists at Harvard. The scientists
were amazed by his ability to learn language. He could differentiate
colors and shapes and knew more than 100 words. . The New York Times wrote:
Alex showed surprising facility. For example, when shown a blue paper
triangle, he could tell an experimenter what color the paper was, what
shape it was, and — after touching it — what it was made of. He
demonstrated some of his skills on nature shows, including programs on PBS and the BBC. He shared scenes with the actor Alan Alda on the PBS series “Look Who’s Talking.”
Alex’s last words to Dr. Irene Pepperburg were, ‘You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.’
You can read about the remarkable relationship Alex had with Dr. Pepperburg in
Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World
of Animal Intelligence — and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene Pepperburg
And here’s an interview with Dr. Pepperburg at Scientific America.
Parrots in folktales and legend
Eighteenth century engraving of Kamadeva
Parrots feature in folk tales and legends from around the world.
One I particularly like is The
Parrot That Talked Too Much.
the handsome Hindu god of love, rides a parrot as he wields his famous
bow and arrows. The bow is made of sugarcane and strung with honeybees
while his arrows are five flower tipped shafts of desire that overcome
the five senses.
Shuka Saptati, also
known as Seventy Tales of the Parrot and as Parrot Speak, is a
collection of stories originally written in Sanskrit in which a parrot tells 70
stories in order to prevent a woman from pursuing a disastrous course of
action. Full of erotic and taboo material, it was compiled in the 6th century
AD by an unknown author. It was translated into Persian during Ala-ud-din Khilji’s
time (1296-1316). It was later translated into Turkish, German and French and
finally into English.
Appalachian folk tale, is a cautionary tale in which a woman named
is persuaded against her better judgment to go to visit three men she
limited acquaintance. When she protests that she will not be able to
way, they promise to leave a trail of ashes for her to find her way.
her that if they are not there when she arrives she is to go right in
herself to the plentiful food they will leave on the table. She follows
trail of ashes, finds that they are not at home, goes in and helps
herself to the food. She
finds a severed hand in her food, and realizes just what type of food
she is eating and that they want to murder her. A
talking parrot warns her about losing her heart’s blood. Polly hides just before the men return home
and while she is hiding another severed hand lands right beside her. It
is that of her cousin and Polly is present while this woman is
she escapes with the help of the parrot, and exposes the men.