Parrot mimics owner's voice to boss around her other pets

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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Barney, an African Grey Parrot, calls Margaret Sullivan's three dogs – Harry, Tilly and Bluey – by name.

The bird, 10, squawks out orders like "come here" and even offers praise to his favourites such as "good dog".

...Mrs Sullivan, a grandmother-of-seven, bought Barney as a young parrot in 1998 and he has been perfecting her voice and accent ever since...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/new...ners-voice-to-boss-around-her-other-pets.html
 

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  • #2
matthyaouw
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Breaking news- nutty old woman thinks her pet has human-like intelligence.

Of course the bird mimics frequently uttered phrases and of course the dogs obey, but does it know what it's doing?
 
  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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I think it would be pretty amazing if the bird was in fact able to duplicate commands that he dogs obey! If the bird understood what was happening, that would be even more amazing, but I don't know if this claim is even made.
 
  • #4
harborsparrow
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Apparently none of you have lived closely with a good bird.
 
  • #5
humanino
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does it know what it's doing?
Why would the nutty old lady know better than the parrot ?
 
  • #6
Math Is Hard
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I don't know if I'd call her nutty. Almost all of us who have critters are guilty of highly anthropomorphic interpretations of our pets' behaviors now and then. Maybe sometimes we're right, but there's a good chance we're more than often wrong.

I don't know why such a big deal is made in the article about the imitation of her voice. The bird learned the phrases from her. Of course, it sounds like her. What would seem to be more astonishing is if the bird uttered those phrases sounding unlike the owner he had learned them from, for instance, if he sounded like a previous owner but was using the new owner's phrases.

To look at a simpler explanation than the bird enjoying ordering the other animals around: perhaps one day the bird is mindlessly imitating the owner and a certain phrase it reproduces causes the dog to come over. Maybe this creates an association because something interesting happens when that phrase is produced (the dog comes over). The bird learns also through trial and error that imitating "good dog" produces interesting results (tail wagging, for example). It could be just that the bird is bored and is rewarded with something novel for producing certain sounds. Or perhaps the owner finds this all "cute" and rewards the bird with treats for the behavior (and maybe even the dog, too, reinforcing the behavior on both sides).

It's not that I don't find cognitive abilities of African Greys impressive (because I am truly amazed by the research of Irene Pepperberg), I just think that this report is anecdotal and could be easily explained by simpler behavioral learning processes.
 
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  • #7
harborsparrow
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There is an acclaimed documentary film, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill", that might help some of you come to the realization that parrots are rather acutely intelligent animals, though with a somewhat different psychology than human beings.
 
  • #8
fuzzyfelt
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Once, someone caught the flu and a parrot we had imitated the nasty cough. I half suspected the parrot enjoyed the reaction of everyone finding the sound pretty gross.
 

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