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

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In summary, Barney, an African Grey Parrot, calls Margaret Sullivan's three dogs – Harry, Tilly and Bluey – by name.
  • #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...
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  • #2
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
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
Apparently none of you have lived closely with a good bird.
  • #5
matthyaouw said:
does it know what it's doing?
Why would the nutty old lady know better than the parrot ?
  • #6
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
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
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.

1. Can all parrots mimic their owner's voice?

Not all parrots have the ability to mimic human speech. It is a learned behavior that is most common in larger parrot species such as African greys and Amazon parrots.

2. How do parrots learn to mimic their owner's voice?

Parrots learn to mimic by listening and repeating sounds they hear often. They have a unique vocal structure that allows them to mimic human speech and other noises.

3. Can parrots mimic other sounds besides human speech?

Yes, parrots can mimic various sounds such as doorbells, phone ringtones, and even other animal noises. They have a wide range of vocal abilities and can mimic almost any sound they hear frequently.

4. Is mimicking human speech natural for parrots?

No, mimicking human speech is not a natural behavior for parrots. In their natural habitats, parrots communicate through different vocalizations and body language. Mimicking human speech is a learned behavior that is often associated with captive parrots.

5. Can parrots use their mimicking abilities to communicate with other pets?

While parrots can use their mimicking abilities to interact with other pets, it is unlikely that they are actually "bossing them around." Parrots use mimicking as a means of bonding and socializing with their owners and other members of their flock.