Friday Grey Matters

Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Category archives for Friday Grey Matters

The world’s biggest flying parrot is the beautiful Hyacinth Macaw, a bluish-purple macaw with yellow around their eyes and mouth. I say “flying parrot” because the ground-bound Kakapo can sometimes weigh the same or a bit more. However, the Hyacinth also is perceived as bigger due to its extremely long tail feathers. Their beauty has…

I’m going to take a bit of a departure for parrot-related news this week to focus on owls, which are solitary, nocturnal birds of prey. Recently a very rare species of owl, the long-whiskered owlet, was observed in the wild in Peru by an American ornithological team. The owlet, first discovered in 1976, is tiny,…

It is not uncommon for a small population of exotic parrot species to flourish in a new niche in the United States. My old home in Sarasota, Florida had a large population of lories and Amazons which lived wild, making their homes in holes in palm trees in my neighborhood. Legend was that an tourist…

Mexico has a lot of problems on its hands: pollution, emigration, drugs, poverty, pollution, to name a few. But Mexico also plays host to many endangered species and habitats, providing a very dangerous home to the animals lucky enough to live there. And these endangered animals, including rare parrots, have price tags: what they can…

According to the Bischof-Kohler hypothesis, only humans can dissociate themselves from their current motivation and take action for future needs: other animals are incapable of anticipating future needs, and any future-oriented behaviors they exhibit are either fixed action patterns or cued by their current motivational state. Well guess what, thats a lot of BS. According…

Dr. Irene Pepperberg has recently published an interesting paper in Language Sciences, regarding the ability of grey parrots to learn new words for unfamiliar objects using phonemes they already know. But, intuitively, the ability to create new words out of known phonemes would require that a parrot grasp that object labels are composed of individual…

A British woman is facing eviction from her apartment over the “persistent and serious noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour” of her African Grey parrot, Sparky. Apparently the bird is fond of saying “show me your knickers” and other raunchy phrases. (Continued under the fold…) Hey baby, I’m a psychic parrot. And in the future I…

While reading a cute (but poorly-written) human interest piece on an African Grey named Valentine, something caught my eye. The author touched upon a particular behavior that Valentine was exhibiting: babbling. Valentine is the color of an overcast day. His tail is scarlet. He recently started mumbling, whispering to himself, which means he’ll be saying…

I never knew there were such things as “orinithological quiz bowls,” but apparently there are and the final question in one at Arizona State had to do with my favorite bird! “Who is Alex?” With the correct answer to that question, the team of Melissa Meadows, Matthew Toomey, and Bobby (Haralambos) Fokidis, all graduate students…

Well, its been a long time coming, and further delayed by grants, labwork, and Irene’s hand injury. But, Irene and I finally got on the phone last weekend and chatted a bit about her work, her birds, and her uncertain future in the field. Irene Pepperberg is someone who I’ve admired since early undergrad, and…