Friday, 3 April 2009

The Intelligence of Parrots

When I was at school, we were taught that parrots had no real intelligence. One could not carry on an intelligent conversation with a parrot because the birds only repeated sounds without understanding their meaning.

However, later research seems to show that parrots are in fact highly intelligent creatures that understand what they're saying.

The recent case where a parrot repeatedly cried, "Mama, baby!" to draw the attention of a babysitter to a choking child is just the latest evidence that parrots do not just "parrot" what they have heard. They probably understand the meaning of the words, too.

It takes significant intelligence to recognise that a child is in distress, to understand that an adult human must be alerted to save the child, and a particular combination of words is the most appropriate to describe the situation. Also, it speaks highly of the emotional quality of empathy, to want to save a fellow living being. It makes us pause to think about what it means to be human.

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