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#199623 - 04/26/09 07:12 AM Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!!  
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anitamarie942 Offline
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Hi All,

I was listening to a program the other day on Avian cognition by Dr Irene Pepperburg - (a world renouned parrot specialist) and her African Grey, Alex. I've taken the time to look a bit further into it and found some relevant links.
I was concerned with Alex's feather condition and the cage he was kept in overnight when I watched the youtube link, taken just before he died. (I quote "Dr. Pepperberg had been away for three weeks at M.I.T., where she is a visiting professor this year. When she leaves him, she says, Alex chews at his tail and wing feathers, giving him a rather threadbare appearance, and when she returns he is very demanding, turning his back and saying, "Come here!"") What concerns me the most, personally, is that people watching MAY run and out and get a parrot for the WRONG reasons - because they can do 'tricks, and 'talk'...a bird is a living breathing creature, much more than the 'subject' of an experiment. That said, the research does fascinate me.
I wonder what you guys think - it this kind of 'experimenting' unethical or valuable? Worth discussing I think? I'm on the fence I think....


http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/current/audioonly/lin_20090418.mp3

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irene_Pepperberg

http://www.123compute.net/dreaming/knocking/alex.html

http://www.alexfoundation.org/dr_pepperberg_speaking.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_Fpad20Zbk

http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/smart-birds/14659832


Anita

#199633 - 04/26/09 05:43 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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Mona Offline
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http://www.mytoos.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=35152&page=1

This thread dates back to 2002 so as you can see, the debate about Irene has been going on a long time. And it can get quite heated as you'll also see ;-)

P.S. Lora Lee is or was at the time, a breeder, and she enjoyed goading us on many subjects when the board
first opened. Our agenda did not sit well with her. When the board first opened a few breeders came to the board with the sole purpose of debunking our theories about parrots. We were a threat to the breeders and they didn't like us much...She, Jerry and I had many similar "debates" that got very hmmmmmmm.....hot? LOL

Last edited by Mona; 04/26/09 05:51 PM.
#199674 - 04/27/09 07:52 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Mona]  
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anitamarie942 Offline
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Hi Mona,
Thanks so much for refering me to the previous threads...OMG - it certainly was a contentious issue...silly of me for not thinking that it may not have already been discussed (should have used the search feature!!).
The radio program was the first I had heard of Alex and Dr P., so I just thought that I could share it here.
I certainly have no wish to create or perpetuative any heated discussion again...my questions were more than answered in the previous threads. BTW, I think your posts were very balanced and well explained, good on you for not being drawn into a silly tit-for-tat argument.
Thanks again Mona.
Anita

#199694 - 04/27/09 05:12 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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OH no, it's sometimes good to bring up a subject and rehash it, get a new perspective from others and new thoughts and discussions about different idea's and subjects.

I just remembered that old discussion we had and hunted it down, and thought you might enjoy reading through some of the points made by various members.

I think Irene Pepperberg meant well and I also think she loved Alex and all the birds. I was just always saddened by what I perceived as a life of being used as an experiment.

My other fear was that everyone would run out and buy an African Grey, hoping to train another Alex, not realizing this bird was trained and worked with hours and hours every single day for years. His life was not the normal life of a Grey.

But I hear that Alex was a happy bird and seemed to enjoy his life so who am I to judge.

Opinions are like .......everybody has one ;-)

#199699 - 04/27/09 06:45 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Mona]  
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I read through that old posting and your material, Anita. It was kind of fun! Things were definitely more interesting back then because that was a period in which breeders were actually allowed to post and speak their minds. Of course, as time went on, Jerry tired of that and our Agenda was propagated. One gets tired of the same old, lame arguments. They can never hide the fact that it is a business, or a distasteful hobby.

After reading everything, I don't have anything to offer. I think most Mytoos members feel much as Mona does; I know I do. We can't see what these birds are thinking or how content they really are under any circumstances. It is fine to rehash these discussions and let the newcomers have a whack at it. smirk

#199712 - 04/28/09 12:33 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Charlie]  
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Those were the days huh Charlie? When breeders came on and tried to rake us over the coals..LOL..it was hard to maintain our cool and sometimes I have to say...I didn't. We were the new kids on the block and we had the NERVE to discourage breeding and buying of birds.

Jerry was tough though, he didn't CARE what the breeders thought and while he could be abrasive, he never backed down and without Mytoo's, we would have never had a platform for our cause...and I will always be grateful to Jerry for starting up the site and this board and inviting me to begin the journey with him, and be part of the Mytoo's team.

#199726 - 04/28/09 02:12 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Mona]  
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You know... reading what I wrote 7 years ago kinda surprises me, because I wouldn't have been nearly as kind today.

Also, the only REAL way to find out if your bird is "domesticated" and is happy to live with you for the rest of it's life is to simply take it outside and open it's cage.

OK... who's first?

#199729 - 04/28/09 02:58 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Jerry]  
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Originally Posted By: Jerry
OK... who's first?


Not me. She already flew into a tree once, I am not looking to go through that again...

#199737 - 04/28/09 03:49 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Chloe413]  
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Mona, I agree with you.
As I said, my GREATEST concern with the publicity surrounding Alex was that perople would be drawn into making a spontaneous decision and purchasing a parrot because it could 'talk', thus perpertuating the over-fill of rescues when it was realised that that was/is a ludicrous and ridiculous reason (to say nothing of irresponsible!!).
I am also quite sad that his name stands for 'Avian Learning Experiment'...surely animals are so much more than that!!! I only hope that the majority of his life he was content, thats all we can hope for any captive birds afterall.
As for opening my birds cage and letting her 'free' to see if she'll come back....although I havent done this deliberately Jerry, my Mimi has been 'free' 3 times and has returned of her own accord (I think due to recall training Ive done with her and the fact I never lost sight of her when she flew off). These WERE accidents and occured when I didnt have much of a clue of the dangers of fully flighted parrots and how EASILY mistakes can happen...for her sake, and her sake only, I am very happy she came back to me because I doubt, very much, that she has the skills to live by herself in the wild. If I was sure she would survive - I would 'free' her without a second thought. To me, the idea that birds could be, or ARE in any way 'domesticated' is ludicrous.
Anita

PS: There is a guy who lives in a suburb in perth who is quite famous around the area for his pink and grey galah, called Harry-there has been many newspaper articles about them over the years, Ill try and dig one up. Every day he is seen walking in the park with Harry, unharnessed and fully flighted on his shoulder. Harry hangs out for an hour or so with a wild flock of pink and greys that feed in the park - he is seen flying with, feeding with them, playing with them, flying away with them. When Mick (his 'owner') calls him back (whistles0, he returns to his shoulder,effectively 'choosing' his human mate over the call of the wild. Remarkable and beautiful to watch....Ive asked him if he is ever frightenend that Harry wont come back one day and he casually replied that Harry was free to make that decision - he was confident Harry would survive with his friends in the flock.It is a lovely thing to watch but I DONT think this is an example of a 'domesticated bird', rather of a beautiful friendship between bird and human and an exceptional one at that.

#199778 - 04/28/09 05:30 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: anitamarie942]  
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Well, some of my birds might WANT to come back but would totally panic if let go outside. I know my DYH Amazon would probably take off and never look back, he has always known he's a bird and it saddens me that I can't allow him to be free.

Domesticated? Not by a long shot, I agree Jerry.

Anitamarie, that must be a wonderful thing to see in Perth. But then the situation is so different there. They can find flocks and survive quite nicely. Not so here in the USA. They would merely be prey for hawks and other large birds. Not to mention that they have no clue how to survive being with humans so long.

I agree, that's not an example of domesticated, it's a wonderful friendship and the way it should be....if only....

#199791 - 04/28/09 08:08 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Jerry]  
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Originally Posted By: Jerry
You know... reading what I wrote 7 years ago kinda surprises me, because I wouldn't have been nearly as kind today.


If a person has any feeling or cognitive abilities at all, each year of watching these creatures live in a house full of predators has to force a "knowing" of the "unnaturalness" of the situation.

Originally Posted By: Anita
Ive asked him if he is ever frightenend that Harry wont come back one day and he casually replied that Harry was free to make that decision - he was confident Harry would survive with his friends in the flock.


These birds read us so well. I think Harry and his keeper have an "understanding" that they are both well aware of.

#199792 - 04/28/09 08:17 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Charlie]  
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Good thread and great subject! So nice to see the "old" gang (Charlie, Mona, Jerry) all in one thread again, brings back the fondest memories (and the hilarious ones - beans, heh heh).

#199796 - 04/28/09 08:59 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Java_One]  
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Don't forget the chili and "cage boys"! ROFLMAO grin

#199804 - 04/28/09 10:18 PM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Mona]  
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Originally Posted By: Mona

I think Irene Pepperberg meant well and I also think she loved Alex and all the birds.


I agree with the above but I also think she underestimated Alex's cognition and social needs. I do equate Baby Girl with my children. I would never leave my children alone over the weekend. They are social creatures and donot want to be alone; they need to be in a flock of some kind. frown


Donna
Free as a bird???
#199844 - 04/29/09 05:30 AM Re: Avian Cognition: AMAZING!!!! [Re: Donnalee]  
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I agree Donna, they do need company..
Ive lately been observing cockatoos in the wild over here and all I can say is that they hang out with massive flocks, I have not seen, on any occasion, a lone cockatoo flying around or eating etc by themselves.
Mona - it is beautiful to watch Harry and Mick together but I agree that it is a very unique situation...almost all of the birds in Australia are native to this country(except macaws and in some states AG's). We are fortunate to have had very strict import laws, macaws were only allowed in Aus in 1990's I think..
You say that if you let yr birds out they would fly away and never look back or just panic....I agree, unbelievablely dangerous. When I accidently let Mimi out the first time she flew down the road and landed on the local deli's roof..I called her and signaled to her to fly to me and she TRIED but got very confused and panicked by the wind conditions, she is a great little flyer IMHO but only used to flying inside you see. She then retreated back to the deli roof and waited patiently to be 'rescued'...I think she was as frightened as I was that she couldnt fly down to me...I knew I'd have to get her before something startled her or I may never find her again so I grabbed a couple of lads and got a ladder and scaled the wall onto the roof. She very happily stepped up for, had a fluff and shake, and then acted as if nothing had happenned. Even though she IS native to australia, she still has had no other birds to teach her what or how to eat in the wild...she is as imprinted as evey other captive bird in this way and her being lost in the wild would most probably end in death. Less of a risk for native birds than yours, I know, but still one that is deeply frightening to me and one I hope never to test. As I said, I made a huge amount of mistakes with her in the first year, not taking enough measures to prevent escape was certainly one of the worst.
Our first responsibility to our birds is to keep them safe. I personally would never risk free flying Mimi as Mick does with Harry - it is just such a beautiful thing to watch and share...an exceptional realationship. Mick is in a very unique situation in that he KNOWS Harry will be fine if he stays with the flock one day...unless we, as our birds caretakers, can postively KNOW this ourselves, I think that the risk of free flying becomes reckless and irresponsible, both for those of us that have non-native birds AND for those of us that have natives.
Anita


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