Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

According to the Indianapolis News a man and his son were awakened by their pet bird as their home caught fire. Their Amazon parrot, Peanut, began making a smoke detector noise while a real smoke detector was going off. The father credits his avian friend with making enough noise to alert him.

I tend to write off stories about animals saving people as wishful thinking on the part of reporters and pet lovers. But in this case, I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that a parrot is considerably louder than a fire alarm.

Don’t forget to vote for Shelley!



  1. #1 Nathaniel
    October 22, 2007

    Parrots, at best, are about as intelligent as a 2 year old human child. Yep, they’re that smart. Still, I don’t know if it would be trying to warn it’s owners or simply mimicking the sound of the smoke detector. The story is plausible, but I question the motives of the bird.

    Just imagine… the bird will probably randomly mimic the sound of the smoke alarm from now on and annoy the heck out of it’s owners.

  2. #2 Greco
    October 22, 2007

    I look at the picture and I see 99 other parrots who died during the – certainly illegal – capture and transport of this one bird.

  3. #3 Aaron Rowe
    October 22, 2007

    Peanut served as a sort of amplifier of the smoke detector noise. I don’t know if it made a rational decision to sound a warning or not. They are pretty smart though. Two year olds can certainly scream or cry when they are scared.

  4. #4 rb
    October 22, 2007

    I can sympathize – I worked in a lab for years that doubled as a mynah rescue. We had one who rapidly picked up the nearby car alarm sounds…if there’s one thing more annoying than the neighbors’ car alarms, it’s a bird imitating them. I wonder how long the gratitude will last before the desire to strangle sets in…

  5. #5 Interrobang
    October 22, 2007

    I’m skeptical of this story too: How can anyone these days have a smoke detector that’s not mind-blowingly, ear-splittingly louder than any creature could possibly be, unamplified?! They don’t seem to sell quieter ones around here, nor ones that don’t emit that particular hypersonic frequency that drives me into an insane, unthinking rage. So far that sound has caused me to go berserk and destroy at least one smoke detector. (FWIW, I can hear dog whistles and the high-pitched hum that televisions make, too.)

    Me, I would pay good money for a quieter, non-hypersonic one, of the sort that they made about 20 years ago. Sure, it wouldn’t keep deaf people from burning alive in their beds, but since I can pretty much hear the galaxy rotating even when I’m asleep, I don’t appreciate being driven batsh*t crazy by something that’s ostensibly supposed to be a safety device.

  6. #6 Stacy
    October 22, 2007

    Well I know for a fact that amazons can be louder than almost anything when they are going off …. Sometimes makes a car alarm sound like childs play… I reposted this on

  7. #7 cfrost
    October 23, 2007

    Some parrots can be dreadfully loud, and though it probably had no idea what it was doing, it’s a pretty funny story all the same. Raise a glass to psittacines!

  8. #8 Skeptyk
    October 23, 2007

    Since my son has a severe HF hearing loss, our system has the usual shriek (which he can’t hear at any volume), plus klaxon, bell, strobe lights and a deep male voice with a Jersey City accent yelling “FYE-UH! FYE-UH! LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!” (It’s other cry is “INTRUDUH!”) The “dog alarm” goes off for no apparent reasons (two Laboratory retrievers), if we had a bird mimic the barks and the telephone ring and the ham radios and the dogs snoring…yikes!

    Interrobang, there are others out there, but they’ll cost you more than the radio shack versions. One thing we opted NOT to have on our alarm system was the beautiful big alarm bell, with the hammer whaling away at the round bell, great old fashioned sound; just like in old movies.

    Birds are amazingly loud. Teeny songbirds can be heard across acres. And tree frogs! And fishers (they scream like someone is being murdered, amplified; fishers are rather cute, like fat weasels, but you never see them and they will eat your kitty cat). The coyotes, singing or yapping in a pack, do not come close to the birds in volume.

  9. #9 AgnosticOracle
    October 30, 2007

    Our parrots have learned our smoke detector noise. It is NOT the most pleasant noise they make. =)

    On the plus side they have also learned to associate it with smoke. If I’m burning something in the kitchen often the parrots go off before the smoke detectors. This often alerts me that I should open a window or turn on an exhaust fan. If I’m lucky this sometimes ventilates the place enough that the real alarms don’t go off.

    My dog very much appreciates this, or would if he understood. His ears don’t react well to the smoke detectors. The birds at least only make the noise intermittently.

  10. #10 Wildbird
    September 19, 2010

    This brave bird deserves a medal for this act of heroism

  11. #11 wireless alarms system
    January 11, 2011

    The parrot really helped saved the lives of both father and son. But if the alarm didn’t go off in the first place, perhaps the parrot wouldn’t have mimicked the sound and alerted them to the danger. It really helps to install security systems that function when needed.

New comments have been disabled.