They really do understand quite a lot, don't they?


New member
Feb 23, 2008
As with my other topic, sorry if this is in the wrong section.

Came across this link from a thread here:

Story 100)
>The man told me he saw Cirrus on a low branch. He reached down and the bird climbed onto his arm. As he and his wife walked back to their house, the bird flew up into a tree, twice. Each time the man said, "if you want me to find your owner, you better come back down." Cirrus did and the man walked into his house with him on his arm.<

I find the above quote absolutely astonishing. That's some major intelligence. As for talking, it's one thing to say they simply mimick us, it's another to say that birds can't put 2 and 2 together when it comes to comparison of the way a toddler views the world. Thoughts?


Bird poop and baby poop
Dec 26, 2006
New Hampshire USA
15 year-old Sun Conure: Hamlet &
14 year-old Green-Cheeked Conure: Mac
If you really want to be 'dumbfounded' you should do some research on Dr. Irene Pepperburg and her work with Alex the African Grey ... want to get an idea on how smart parrots are check those two out ...

(R.I.P. Alex - 2007)

Auggie's Dad

Dec 28, 2007
South Hadley MA
Auggie: Dusky Conure
I was also going to recommend the alex story. However I'd also recommend the clever hans story (just google clever hans and you'll get some version of it.)

As a behaviorist the question of animal intelligence is one that I have done quite a bit of research on. In fact I was just discussing it with a professor at the UofM yesterday - the meeting was to discuss future research opportunities, but you cant put two behaviorists in a room without the conversation wandering a bit.

There has previously been this bias or egotism under which humans thought we were the only one with "consciousness". Finally people have realized this is crap: from a scientific standpoint one cannot even define consciousness, so to state that it exists in one group and not in another is absolute foolishness.

There is abundant research on animal intelligence out there. If you want a good start on the subject, in addition to Irene Pepperburg, I'd also recommend Vicki Hearne's book Adams Task. She goes through many traditional stories of animal learning and intelligence in a very fun and readable way.

A couple points to make you think:

Psychologists have often used a mirror to test what they call self-awareness. They put a red dot on a babies forehead then they show them a mirror, if they touch their own forehead they are said to be self-aware. This test has been used on animals to show that animals are NOT self-aware; however this is horribly unscientific, it is not a good test. Really it is simply testing whether they know what a mirror is. Using vision as a primary sense is limited to birds and primates, for the rest of the animal world scent is dominant. There was another experiment where small plastic cubes were each rubbed on one rat to pick up their body odor. The rats were then tested, they could all identify their own cube. If we were to rub the cube on the human researchers then ask them which one was theirs they would fail miserably. Would this prove that humans are not self aware?

Different organisms develop different abilities. Humans have vision, particularly face recognition. A small part of our brain is devoted to face recognition, we can all recognize hundreds if not thousands of people by their face (think celebrities, etc.) Interestingly there is less difference between two faces than there is between two sunflowers within a field of sunflowers. Given a photograph of a single flower, if you were told to go find that specific one in a field how long would it take? Could you even do it at all? Given a photo of a person, and a room full of people however, THAT you could do.

The closest correlate to our face-recognition ability in animals is salmons' ability to go back to their natal stream several years after leaving. Scientists are still trying to figure out how they do it. It's not as simple as the "smell" of the stream, over three years that would change a lot: pollution, things falling in, things getting pulled out... Yet they have the ability to choose their stream out of countless choices.

Now, to bring this full circle: while the story you quoted was great I offer a bit of caution. Do not let anecdotal stories serve as "proof" of animal intelligence. To play devils advocate, in looking at that story there could have just been something in the tree that scared the bird out and the mans arm was the next best place. There is an abundance of solid evidence for animal intelligence, so when a sceptic asks about it provide the solid evidence rather than the anecdotal stories.

That is why I recommended the clever hans story. It can show how easily people can be mislead into the right conclusion by the wrong evidence. The problem is when they see that the evidence is faulty they will reject the conclusion.

If you don't find it anywhere else here is a condensed version of the clever hans story:


New member
Feb 6, 2008
I had read that story before, I believe.

I love to read about Dr. Irene Pepperberg and Alex. I love the fact that Alex made up his own words for things, like "cork nut". When i was first looking into getting a parrot I couldn't get enough of the articles on Alex.



Active member
Dec 12, 2010
Jake YNA 1970,Kia Panama amazon1975, both i removed from nest and left siblings, Forever Home to,Stacie (YN hen),Mickie (RLA male),Blinkie (YNA hen),Kong (Panama hen),Rescue Zons;Nitro,Echo,Rocky,Rub
Did you read the link to the "Clever Hans" story? Could the bird in the OP's post have just preferred to go with humans because he grew up with humans? Or do you think he understood what the man was saying?


Well-known member
May 2, 2012
Boomer (Sun Conure 9 yrs), Pewpew (Budgie 5 yrs), Ulap (Budgie 2 yrs), Eight & Kiki (Beloved Budgies, RIP)
I personally don't think the parrot understood what the man said. He flew down because he recognized that the human is friendly, might feed him and accept him into his flock and home.

That said, I do not doubt that parrots are intelligent. They absolutely are. But I do not expect them to understand human language unless trained and conditioned to, and even then, there must be limitations to what words and phrases they can recognize. I believe it is important not to promulgate these myths because other people will come to expect unreasonable things from parrots. Expectation can lead to disappointment. Disapointment can lead to a rehomed parrot.

Just my 2 cents.


New member
Aug 15, 2013
Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Avery, a GCC born on March 5th, 2013 & Shiko, a blue IRN born on February 25th, 2014
I'm with Boom on this. Humans rely on primarily on verbal cues and correspond those verbal cues with physical behaviours. I would imagine that the proper body language would be the determinant opposed to what was said for other animals - a familiar or similar flight recall cue would do the trick. I mean, that's the basis of understanding other animals after all. We can learn to associate certain sounds with behaviours, but without the behaviour we'd be clueless.

That's not to say other animals aren't intelligent, rather that the human definition of intelligence is vague and restricted to humans. An apple isn't an orange and you can't base how good of an orange it is by the characteristics of an apple. Simple as that.

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