Parrots – Do they really talk?

Parrots ParrotsWalk into the home of a parrot owner and you will likely hear a raucous “Hello” from the colourful bird. Just what is it about parrots that allow them to talk?




Image Source: (

Parrots, also know as psittacines, “talk” as a form of communication. Parrots in the wild will learn to vocalize by mimicking the sounds of their parents and the other birds in its social group. However, a parrot in a home surrounded by human communication will view the humans as its social circle and will naturally try to communicate with them by mimicking the sounds it hears.

Unlike humans, parrots do not have vocal cords. Instead, they learn to control the movement of the muscles in their throat to direct the airflow in a way to reproduce certain tones and sounds—sometimes even human sounds! With careful training, parrots can be trained to speak words, sing, and whistle. However when they speak, they are merely mimicking words. They do not understand what they are saying at all.

So, don’t be fooled by the parrot which shrieks “Hello” when you come in, it might say the same thing when you leave!

There is no question that some parrots show signs of intelligence!

An example is the African Grey parrot named Alex. Alex can associate human words with meanings, and intelligently identify shapes, colour, number, etc. It can also produce human speech. This video below shows the intelligence of this bird!

 Alex the African Grey Parrot!

Image Source: (

Watch this intelligent parrot!


‘Can parrots really talk?’ URL:

‘Why do parrots talk?’ by Nicole Hoelscher, eHow Contributing Writer, 30 May 2009. URL:

“How do parrots speak so clearly and mimic so well?” By URL:

How intelligent are Homing Pigeons


I chanced upon this article ‘10 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about Animals’ and I was curious in fact number 8 that Homing pigeon can fly thousands of miles to find the same roosting spot with no navigational difficulties. These pigeons are commonly used to carry messages since the past and were thus known as carrier pigeons, which is a variety of domesticated Rock Pigeon (Columba livia domestica). There are always misconceptions that birds fly according to the Earth’s magnetic field, but the actual facts are that pigeons rely on familiar natural and manmade landmarks clearly pictured in their brains!

homing pigeons in a pair

Two homing pigeons setting off together on the journey back to the loft. Credit: Robin Freeman

These birds have a phenomenal memory and being in a recognizable territory, they fly according to the familiar landmarks. To add on to this point, it is proven in one of the recent scientific studies done by Jeanna Bryner that pigeons have an amazing long-term memory and the ability to make group decisions based on different sets of conditions, such that pigeons are ‘intelligent’ enough to take a shorter route if it was suggested to them by their partners. This explains that it is essential and effective when pigeons fly in a group and thus it is a common sight to see a huge flock of pigeons together searching for food and travelling around.

From an experiment investigation done in University of Cambridge by G. V. T. Matthews, it emphasizes on the same point as my article that pigeons have terrific intelligence. Such that a total of 158 pigeons were used and the results were that the pigeons were able to fly in one particular direction regardless of the angle at which they were released. This fact showed their true navigational abilities and photogenic memories in-built in them.

This can be linked to what we have learnt in the lecture on Learning Behavior and this is an example of ‘Trial and Error and Memory’ of animals, where they get certain actions right after several tries. In the animal world, there are instinctive or learnt behaviors in animals and this is both a nature and nurture behavior where their good memory is nature and trying to remember the landmarks and navigating well is nurture. In brief, pigeons are intelligent bird creatures and depend on their brain power.


“10 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about Animals,” by Ben Mauk. LiveScience, Fact number 8. URL: (accessed on 31st March 2010)

“How Homing Pigeons Find Home,” by Corey Binns. LiveScience, 13 November 2006. URL: (accessed on 31st March 2010).

“Bird Brains Actually Brilliant,” by Jeanna Bryner. LiveScience, 07 November 2006. URL: (accessed on 3rd April 2010).

G. V. T. Matthews, 1951. The Experimental Investigation of Navigation in Homing Pigeons, (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge). Journal of Experimental Biology, 28: 508-536.

Roy & Silo – Gay penguins, no i’m serious, they’re gay


American idol Adam Lambert recently openly admitted to himself being gay on national television.   While some commended him for being open about it, many others condemned him for his sexual orientation.  In today’s society, homosexuality is still considered taboo in many countries.  Little do people know that homosexual and bisexual activities have been ongoing in the animal kingdom. 

Meet Roy and Silo (above), two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo.  They have been inseperable for six years since 1998, openly displaying homosexual behavior.  Together, they have displayed classic penguin pair-bonding behavior such as the entwining of necks, mutual preening, flipper flapping, etc.  You may find it hard to believe, but yes, they also had sex, while ignoring potential female mates.  Together, they raised a child, obtained from a surrogate mother penguin.   While the pair has already broken up in 2005, zoos from all around the world have been finding similar patterns of homosexuality in their penguins as well.  A German zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, claims that their two male penguins, Z and Vielpunkt have hatched a chick and are now rearing it together as its adoptive parents. 

Homosexual or bisexual behavior is not an uncommon observation amongst animals.  James Owen from National Geographic mentioned in his article that birds do it too, so do beetles, sheeps, orang utans, dolphins, fruit bats, etc.  Such behavior to be seems extremely intriguing.  I would usually presume that male animals will be on the lookout for female animals for mating purposes, and not male animals.  I tried doing more research on the topic and have found out possible reasons for such behavior.  Some animals appear to go through a homosexual phase before they become fully mature.  Others form temporal sexual relationships for social reasons – to establish lifelong bonds within their kind. 

It is interesting to point out that despite such behavior being common amongst animals, they have only  been documented relatively recently due to zoologists fear of stepping into a political mindfield of homosexuality and hetrosexuality.

The Gay Penguins of Central Park Zoo


“Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate” by J. Owen.  National Geographic News, 23rd July 2004. URL: (accessed on 2nd April 2010)

“New Love Breaks Up a 6-Year Relationship at the Zoo” by J. Miller. New York Times, 24th September 2005. URL: (accessed on 3rd April 2010)

“The Gay Penguins of the Central Park Zoo” by M. Balan, 19th August 2006. URL: (accessed on 4th April 2010)

M. Renner, J. Valencia, S. David, D. Saez & C. Orlando, 1998. “Sexing of Adult Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica using Morphometrics”. Journal of Colonial Waterbirds. 21(3): 444-449 (accessed from Jstor on 4th April 2010)