After living with a pair of African Grey Parrots for almost 13 years I can truly say these two little guys have become a very integral part of our family and they have offered up some of the most amazing love and friendship.
I can say without a doubt that an african grey can actually communicate with you. Yes, they do the mimic thing, but it goes well beyond that. If you watch this video of these african greys you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Not only do they think through and solve some interesting challenges, they also express themselves such as when Griffin asks if he can go back to his cage, when he has had enough or when Alex asks for some water in an attempt to change the direction of his interaction with animal psychologist Dr. Pepperberg.
African greys can reason through events much like human beings.
Dylon, our male, is much more the verbal communicator then Carlie, our female, but Carlie can speak volumes with her eyes and her mannerisms. In an instant Carlie can express curiosity, anger, fear, concern, love or contentment. Dylon speaks his feelings. He tells us when something is wrong, when he is hungry, when he wants to go to bed, when he wants to play, or when he is concerned for one of us.
For example, recently I tripped and almost fell in the our living room. Dylon immediately said “WHEWWWW!”, followed by “you alright big guy”? (he calls me ‘big guy’, if he’s not calling me Bob). What he did was reasoned through an event and formed a sentence with his vocabulary to actually ask a question out of concern for me. Some may not believe that, but ask yourself then are human beings the only creatures on this plant that can use cognitive thinking to come to some sort of conclusion? If you pay any kind of attention to the animal world you will soon learn the answer to that question is no.
Through these years I have also come realize what a great sense of humor an african grey can have! Little comedians in a bird suit they can be. Countless times we have laughed at their antics and I believe these birds actually enjoy seeing and hearing us respond to them in a light-hearted manner. They love to tease and occasionally insult the nearest creature, be that one of us, our dog, a visitor or even another animal they may see outside.
When our greys were just months old and beginning to make sounds and pronounce words we had them outside with us at a campground in Texas (we were living full time in a RV at the time and spending the winter in the south). A camper from down the way had been walking her dog past our site several times and finally came over to see the birds. We asked her not to let her dog get too close but she didn’t listen and made some smart remark about having ‘bird soup’ for dinner that night as her dog frightened the babies. My guess is she was a bit jealous that our birds received more attention from the other campers then her yappy little dog did. At the time Dylon had a very limited vocabulary, but he managed to form his first sentence the next day when this lady walked her dog past them again in an attempt to scare them and he blurted out…”Hello Coo Coo!” in a very crisp, insulting voice! The look on that lady’s face was priceless. Needless to say, she never came around again. Something about being insulted by a tiny creature to set the ol’ ego straight…
Or the time Dylon went ballistic when he was out on the play perch in the RV when a small moth flitted by him and flew straight into his cage. He yelled out, “Help”!, “Stop it, stop it!” and was clearly upset as he weaved and bobbed side to side trying to tell this moth to get out of his cage. Did he “mimic” some repetitious phrase or did he actually combine some words together within his vocabulary to communicate his feelings? And, no, we didn’t walk around repeating the phrase “help, stop it, stop it” a hundred times a day.
These little guys have really enhanced our lives over the years and I could share dozens of stories, but the point is the African Grey Parrot is one amazing little creature. Yes there are downsides to living with a grey, but the positives far out weight the negatives.
When was the last time your pet called you by your first name and cracked a joke??