Episode #5 of the course “The Smartest Animals on Earth“
Everyone knows that parrots are great communicators. They mimic sounds and speech phrases and can make calls like other birds and animals, all in addition to having a series of sounds used to communicate with other parrots. But in addition to using these sounds for communication and tactical advantage, they also recall human phrases to make requests or communicate specific messages.
Research and parrot handlers have shown that an average parrot demonstrates communication and problem-solving skills on par with a 3-year-old child, and the smartest parrots, including several African grey parrots, are said to be as smart as a 5-year-old. However, most parrots do not pass the test of showing that they recognize themselves in a mirror—a popular intelligence test.
Although a parrot’s brain is much smaller than a human’s, birds’ brains have much the same wiring for cognitive processing as human brains. Their brain size is relatively large for their head size, but it still only 1/1000 the size of an average adult human brain. Parrots are the only animals outside of great apes that have demonstrated certain critical thinking and problem-solving skills, making them very interesting for scientists who study animal intelligence. They will go through multiple steps to solve small puzzles, and they can keep observers entertained for hours as they eliminate false solutions until they find the correct one.
Because of this type of keen problem-solving, they are often difficult to keep entertained and require owners to switch out toys in their environments. They can count and perhaps even understand the concept of “zero.” Parrots can also make observations about changes in their environment and have been known to pass time in conversation about the weather.
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