Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NOVA SCIENCE NOW-Pepperberg and Alex plus the Great Horned Owl Cam

Dr. Irene Pepperberg, the Homo sapien and the late Alex, the Psittacus erithacus erithacus

They not only proved that they broke the species to species verbal language barrier by speaking in English to each other, but to parse it even finer they broke the language barrier of an avian creature and a mammalian one communicating in a common language. Note Alex was the one with the physical equipment and the smarts to do it in the mammal's language.

Though to give Dr. Pepperberg credit, she couldn't have learned African Grey Parrot language from Alex as likely Alex didn't know it yet. He came to the lab very young. And just like human babies learn their language from those around them, young Grey's learn language from their parents and their flocks. It's thought that each flock might well have it's own dialect.

A hand raised Macaw in one cage and a hand raised Grey in another have been known to verbally compare what they were given for dinner in the language of their owner.

Alex was 31 when he died. If he had had his complete life expectancy there is no doubt in my mind that he would have learned to read as he already was grasping phonetics from children's plastic alphabet letters. And in one case when a nut was not forth coming when he wanted one, he sounded it out just in case they weren't getting it.

Check your PBS stations for a repeat of Nova Science Now featuring the profile of Pepperberg.

Plus here is a nearly 12 minute video with segments of the program-

In you don't find a re-airing, the full program is often available online once all the local repeats are finished.

My apologies for not giving you a heads up earlier. I was painting the basement and washing the kitchen ceiling the last few days and accidentally stumbled on the program this evening...too late to let you know.

And for those of you who can't get enough of Great Horned Owls, Cornell's owl-cam link from Robin of Illinois--


Jane said...

Great piece on Alex. Does Silver communicate with you?

Donegal Browne said...

Absolutely. He tells me what he wants. Everything from "Want Carrot" to "Wanna watch TV". He occasionally argues with me when he does something wrong and I tell him he's a "Bad Bird". He's been known to turn his back, say "GOOD BIRD!" with feeling as he walks away.

Jane said...

Those men! They always want the last word! :)