Are birds trying to tell us things?

Laura

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http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1142941149417&call_pageid=970599119419

Owner spends years deciphering budgie's `words'
Research does suggest birds have cognitive ability
Mar. 23, 2006. 01:00 AM
ELVIRA CORDILEONE
STAFF REPORTER

Ryan Reynolds is a psittalinguist — a person who interprets budgie-speak.

Since 1999, he has invested thousands of hours slowing down and deconstructing recordings of his beloved budgie, Victor, who died five years ago at the young age of 3, as well as other talking budgies.

Victor had a vocabulary of 1,000 words, which he used in context, Reynolds says.

Reynolds, founder of The Budgie Research Group, later reached out to others with talking budgies, hoping to share information. To describe their work, they coined the term psittalinguistics, from psittacidae, or the parrot family.

So what are budgies saying?

"This is going to sound crazy, but they talk about spiritual things: God, the afterlife, a better world for them," Reynolds says.

Reynolds, 50, is semi-retired from an administrative job. He's the group's senior translator, thanks partly to his work in radio communications with the Canadian Armed Forces from 1975 to 1985, which helped him develop his listening skills. A sensitive ear is crucial because budgies talk at a rate of 150 to 200 words a minute, he says.

"I don't claim to be 100 per cent (accurate), but other people do hear what I hear. It's not my imagination," Reynolds says.

"It takes a lot of skill and concentration. Budgies have a particular way of pronouncing words. It's like picking up accents."

Apart from the research group, which numbers 1,000 psittalinguist collaborators from around the world, Reynolds mounted an extensive website that includes captioned recordings of budgies speaking (http://www.parrotresearch.com), and he's working on a book tentatively entitled, The Prophecies of Parrots — the Story of Victor the Budgie.

Reynolds says Victor predicted a "tsunami on the south bank of Asia" and warned of an upcoming "super volcano." In the weeks before he died, Reynolds says Victor told him God was coming to take him away.

"I don't know about predictive ability," says veterinarian Petra Burgmann of the Animal Hospital of High Park. "What frame of reference would it have for a tsunami? But I certainly believe it's possible they know when they're about to die."

Rupert Sheldrake, a London-based biologist, biochemist, philosopher and author, who trained at Cambridge and Harvard, researches unexplained perceptiveness in animals, such as telepathy, sense of direction and premonition.

He repeatedly tested N'kisi, a captive African Grey parrot who seemed to respond telepathically to the thoughts and intentions of his owner, Aimee Morgana. He wanted to find out whether the bird would use words matching randomly chosen pictures Morgana was looking at in another room.

"These findings are consistent with the hypotheses that N'kisi was reacting telepathically to Aimee's mental activity," Sheldrake reports on his website (http://www.sheldrake.org).

"The fact that these experiments statistically prove that N'kisi's use of speech is not random also give evidence of his sentience and intentional use of language."

Toronto parrot owner Margaret Evered, formerly a behaviour biologist and now a computer consultant, doesn't need science to prove that she and her female African Grey parrot have a psychic bond.

Evered recounts how the bird, Plato, anticipated her return after a one-year absence — even though not even her parents, in whose care she'd left the bird, knew when she was returning.

"One day she wouldn't go to bed. She just kept standing at the door, waiting. I rolled in at 2 a.m.," Evered says.

She and Plato have shared a home for 21 years, from the time Plato was captured in the Congo when she was about 1.

Evered says Plato understands what she says. She has a vocabulary of about 300 words, which she mixes and matches as circumstances warrant.

Plato uses intonation appropriate to the circumstances. She'll ask "okay?" softly when someone is unwell. Or she'll refuse to do something with a vociferous "no" as she bounces up and down.

Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, has revolutionized thinking about these birds by proving they do conceptualize — thanks to her 20-year collaboration with Alex, an African Grey parrot (http://www.alexfoundation.org).

Parrot owners have to realize their pets have the cognitive ability of a 5-year old, she says. Locking them up without stimulation eight to 10 hours a day causes emotional damage and leads to behavioural problems, such as screaming or feather-plucking.

That's not likely to happen with one Toronto bird. Still a baby at age 3, Angel, a double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, lives in a spacious aviary equipped with a TV and a window that looks out onto Queen St. W.

Her owner, Charlie Ravka, keeps her on the second and third storeys above his store, which serves as office and occasional sleeping quarters.

"She's unpredictable, hilarious," Ravka says. "I don't know what she'll do next. But when I wake up, she says, `How are you?' And when I'm on the couch, she sits on the back and preens my hair.

"The parrot is my buddy."
 

anart

The Living Force
Well, as someone who has lived with African Greys for 14 years, I can say with no hesitation that I believe them to be telepathic. I have experienced their reacting to and commenting on my emotional state and things I am reading or watching many times. I've even thought something that I was watching or reading was really funny, but I didn't laugh out loud, only to hear one of my birds start to laugh in another room. The emotional lives of parrots are extremely complex and they simply do not forget anything that has ever happened to them, thus those in captivity are often nuerotic and self-destructive. It is my personal opinion that parrots should not be kept as pets, it is far too damaging to them physically and emotionally. ( I rescue abused and abandoned parrots ). I don't know much about budgies, so I can't really comment on the validity, or lack thereof, of the comments made above about budgies. I must admit though, with what I've learned about parrots after living with them for years, that nothing would surprise me about any bird's intelligence or emotional depth. For a short article written many years ago on keeping parrots as pets, you can go to http://www.wellvet.com/rescueparrot.html . It's not extremely well written, but you might get the general idea of how complex and sensitive these creatures really are.
 

rs

Jedi Council Member
I have no doubt that parrots are highly intelligent. I have read that an experiment was run where they created this artificial world of various colored blocks and were able to ask the bird questions in English and get answers in English. It became apparent that the bird was not only able to answer obvious questions but was also able to answer abstract ones.

However.

I created a profile on Reynold's forum and watched some of the "videos". What I expected was video of a parrot with possibly an overdubbed audio track. What I got were "videos" where the audio was strange beyond description and the "video" was nothing more than words timed to the sounds.

I am not a gambler, but I'll place a Benjamin on the fact that this is all a hoax, and it is the audio that gives it away (to me). Notice the datelines for all of the "prophesies"; always conveniently after the fact, eh? The only forward looking prophesy is the one about a "north volcano" which is not specific in event, time or place, and therefore is so completely ambiguous as to be worthless.
 
T

the all-encompassing egg

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Oh, I watched the videos too and they did look pretty set up. Not to discredit the intelligence of birds, though. I absolutely believe in the intelligence of animals, especially birds. Often it's misunderstood and therefore greatly underestimated. One of my favorite things to do at work when I have a quite moment, is to feed the pigeons. They are amazing- not just the 'rats of birds' like most people would like you to believe. I'll watch them plan ahead for foot traffic, flinging their food to a safe location before someone gets in the way of it. They know who I am as well, they'll follow me for food. Birds are amazing. The more you watch them the more you see their (so-called) human characteristics.
 
T

the all-encompassing egg

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Little random bird story: I was sitting at the bus stop today when a very hurried pigeon scuttled up and was picking for food. I say 'very hurried' because I watch pigeons all the time, and usually they have a certain walk and pace- well not this little guy, he was on a mission! I had some homemade banana bread in my bag for a friend and decided that I could spare a piece in the name of hunger. I broke off pieces of it and tossed them to him. It's fascinating watching birds; they get such little credit- "bird brains" you know? You feed a dog a bone and it crunches it everywhere and you have to point out the leftover bits to it or it won't even notice. Well, this little pigeon would nab a piece of banana bread and shake it's head from side to side to make smaller pieces. The pieces would fling everywhere and break into tiny crumbs, some of them flying as far as seven feet. This little guy didn't miss a beat, he got every last crumb no matter how hidden it was. It was pretty unbelievable actually. I thought he would miss a piece but he had the pattern all worked out and everything. I could hear him thinking, "gotta get food, gotta get food. there's a piece, gotta get food." Ah, I really do enjoy pigeons.
 

Ben

Jedi Council Member
I thought I should point out here that this is not much of an indication of high intelligence in the pigeon, that sort of behaviour can be found in lizards and crocodiles, for example. Most birds are not particularly intelligent and have small brains, the main exception being the parrot family as stated in this thread (and some corvids, or crows). The evidence for this intelligence comes not from mimicry abilities, which are not unique to these birds, but the use of these abilities in the formation of abstract concepts (classic example - the experiments with 'Alex' the African Grey) and complex emotions. There are also other 'forms of intelligence' in parrots, and many other animals, which the original post touched upon and which we do not understand because of the perception of the mainstream scientific community. This is not to say that these are particularly intelligent or even complex phenomena, simply because they are not well studied. Don't get me wrong, I like pigeons and animal behaviour is always fascinating, but they and most birds are deserving of their title 'bird brain'.
 
T

the all-encompassing egg

Guest
Oh no, I'm sure you're right about pigeons. Most people think they are just dumb. I love to watch them though and the more I do the more I see intelligence in them. Which is not to say I'm about to have a conversation with one...haha. No, I'm just giving them more credit than most. Of course, I don't think that their intelligence is at all the same as a parrot's, that would be foolish. They are fascinating to watch and I'm kind to them unlike most people I see who would rather trample or chase them.
 

Pierre

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Maybe that's why Fulcanelli and other amateurs of Cabale had such an interest in the "language of the birds" (Argot - Art Goth - Cabale - language des oiseaux).

As you know, birds' language is a kind of phonetic approach of language where words and combinations of words go together because they sound similar (see the Greenwich - Green Witch bad joke in an other topic). This approach allows to transcendate formal boundaries (definitions, orthograph, grammar) and legal boundaries (secret messages), it stimulates symbolic/creative/esoteric analysis and it focuses less on the entities (the words) than on the links (i.e. the intelligence between words and letters).

Does it mean that when Man manages to understand the real intelligence of words he builds the Babel tower and manages to reach the sky like a bird does ? ;-)
 
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