Monday, September 10, 2007

In Memory of Alex

Alex the African Grey died September 6 at the age of 31.

Quoting from the Alex Foundation website: "Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species. Pepperberg says that Alex showed the emotional equivalent of a 2 year-old child and intellectual equivalent of a 5 year-old. Her research with Alex shattered the generally held notion that parrots are only capable of mindless vocal mimicry."

Alex was also learning to read.

For parrot enthusiasts, Alex was rather a hero - the symbol of parrot intelligence that we all understand but that the scientific community scoffs at. Dr. Pepperberg has continued her work for 30 years in spite of lack of peer support and funding problems. She has two young Greys she's still working with, who will hopefully step into the very large footprints left by Alex.

We can help. Go to and make a donation. There is also a tape you can buy on how to train your bird to communicate "the Alex Way", three publications by Dr. Pepperberg, and many other items. Check it out.

Dr. Pepperberg has supported the Avian community in many ways. It's time for us all to return the favor and support her research and her projects.

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