Science » Planet Earth
Author`s name Dmitriy Sudakov

Birds seem to be approaching the intellectual level of humans

Imagine that at a court session in Düsseldorf one of the witnesses was a parrot. In fact, the parrot must appear at court as a defendant in a law suit, but the parrot’s owners must be sued for its trickery.

After numerous complaints of the plaintiffs the judge said he would like to listen to what the parrot had to tell. And the female parrot Kora did not hesitate to tell its story. Journalists with voice recorders also had a good opportunity to record the story. At first, Kora distinctly pronounced its full name and then burst into spiteful laughing. That sounded incredibly arrogant and the audience in the court was taken aback with the laughing. Indeed, as the plaintiffs stated the exotic bird was awfully unbearable. One of them, a woman living next door to Kora said she suffered from mental diseases because of the parrot. To confirm it, she presented medical certificates.

Experts estimated that the sounds produced by the ill-bred bird could easily penetrate through the walls and disturb neighbors. And the parrot was bold enough to confirm the expert opinion with some harsh words. The judge demanded that Kora must be taken away from the court and that its owners must pay a fine for the troubles the bird had caused to the neighbors.

The feathered hooligan behaved at court the way it felt that must be, and highly likely that was its habitual manner of communication. This story occurred a couple of years ago and it was rather funny indeed.

The grey African parrot named N’kisi is a really scientific sensation. Much has been written about the bird that is not just a mere talking bird. N’kisi is one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world. Its vocabulary consists of 950 words. The parrot invents his own words and phrases if it is confronted with some new ideas with which its existing repertoire cannot cope. Just the way as a human child would do.

N’kisi’s behavior is quite well-mannered: it uses words and phrases in the context of a conversation, at that uses the right grammar forms of verbs depending upon if it speaks about the past, the present or the future.

The grey parrot N’kisi invents a descriptive name for some thing or object in case it does not know the exact term for it. For instance, it calls aroma oils its owner, an artist from New York , uses for aroma therapy ‘medicines with pleasant smell’. This is astonishing that the bird can link a picture to a real man or an object depicted on it. Some time ago, N’kisi saw a picture of an expert on primates, Jane Goodall surrounded by chimpanzees. So, when the parrot saw the woman in real life for the first time it hailed her with the words: “Got a chimp?”

This bird has a wonderful sense of humor which is not always typical of humans. Once when a fellow parrot was hanging with its head down, N’kisi happily cried: “You’ve got to put this bird on the camera!”

Dr. Goodall estimates N’kisi’s learning abilities and its wish to communicate with the owner as “the remarkable example of inter-species communication.” However, recent researches have proved that the parrot reveals not only his astonishing verbal talents. It is supposed that N’kisi also probably possesses some mind-reading abilities. An experiment was conducted to asses N’kisi’s abilities.

Eleanor O’Hanlon from BBC Wildlife Magazine filmed the experiment. Morgana, the owner of the parrot and N’kisi were separated. During the experiment, Morgana out of N’kisi’s view opened 71 random envelopes with picture cards inside. Being at a distance from the woman, the parrot pronounced some words.

Later it turned out that N'kisi guessed at directly relevant keywords for 23 of the cards, three times as often as would be expected to result by chance. For instance, N’kisi said “What ya doing on the phone?” when Morgana saw a card of a man with a telephone, and “Can I give you a hug?” with one of a couple embracing. Experts who conducted the experiment said that the parrot seemed to be able to pick its owner’s thoughts with an amazing degree of accuracy.

In a Wildlife Magazine publication dedicated to the experiment, researchers still stated the results of the experiment were “contradictory”. However, Eleanor O’Hanlon emphasizes this is a good start for more studies in interspecies communication. N’kisi’s amazing vocabulary and sense of humor should make everyone who has a pet parrot consider whether they are meeting its needs, experts say. “They may not be able to ask directly, but parrots are long-lived, and a bit of research now could mean an improved quality of life for years.”

Professor Donald Broom from the University of Cambridge’s School of Veterinary Medicine says that “the more we look at the cognitive abilities of animals, the more advanced they appear, and the biggest leap of all has been with parrots.”

Indeed, almost half of all people reading English need one hundred words while the parrot may have a vocabulary of 950 words. If the parrot could read, a great number of publications would be available for it.

In this connection, it makes sense to closely watch other birds’ behavior. Contrary to the general belief, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the film where a flock of seagulls terrorizes a city, is not at all an absolute fantasy. In England ’s Gloucester , a seagull aggressively attacked Don Weston for over five years. The man never devastated birds’ nests, and what is more he even once saved a seagull nestling that dropped out of a nest.

The aggressive seagull, very likely the one that developed into an adult bird from the nestling that Weston once saved, crapped on his clothes and dived with the hope to break the man’s head. And it is strange that the bird hated its rescuer so much. May it be so that it supposed the one who saved its life must also take care of its food? Mr. Weston invented various tricks to get out of the seagull’s sight – changed clothes, wore a wig and even had high-heeled shoes – but all in vain. The bird immediately recognized him even in a huge crowd and attacked the 60-year-old man so violently that he had to escape.

It is true that people really know little about wild birds. The married couple, Jean and Terry Greening in Britain’s Devon say that their domestic bullfinch named Butch can talk very much like a parrot.

Researchers suppose that people could learn much new surprising things if birds were studied closer. Highly likely birds’ talkativeness develops because people continuously talk to them.

Being a nestling, Butch dropped out of its nest and was taken to the Sea Birds Care House in southern Devon. Later, all attempts to teach the nestling to live in wildlife failed. So, Wildlife officials gave Butch to Terry end Jean Greening, a couple who have a garden aviary behind their bungalow. Soon, Butch began to talk. Jean Greening greets the birds in the aviary with whistles, kissing noises, and the phrase, “Who’s a pretty boy?” One day, out of the blue, Butch piped up and said to Terry Greening, “Who’s u pretty boy?”

Ever heard about pigeons that can discriminate paintings of Monet and Picasso? A pigeon distinguished between a Picasso and a Monet painting in experiments at Cardiff University in Britain . The pigeon may have held an idea (Picasso’s style) in its head to make the distinction. Japanese researcher Shigeru Watanabe who conducts these experiments thinks pigeons are wonderful connoisseurs of art.

Recently, researchers ask themselves a question if they have exhausted all resources to establish good communication between humans and animals. Some years ago, statements about telepathy contacts with a parrot sounded really incredible for majority of us while today influential researchers and research institutes want to study the issue of bird intellect.

A couple of months ago, The Guardian published the results of recent researches in species biology. American researchers suppose that humans won the superiority over the rest biological species basically thanks to their sense of hearing.

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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