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Fri Aug 28, 2015, 01:00 AM

Why Do Parrots Talk?

Why Do Parrots Talk?

And do they know what they’re saying?

By Ashley P. Taylor
August 06, 2015


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Alex the parrot counts red and blue objects at the behest of his owner, Dr. Irene Pepperberg.
Photo: Jeff Topping for The New York Times/Redux
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Of all the creatures on Earth, only two can produce human language: humans…and birds. Of the few birds that can imitate human speech, including mynah birds, crows, and ravens, parrots are clearly the best at it—they give TED talks, speak multiple languages, and even front heavy metal bands. So why can parrots talk when our closer primate relatives cannot?

Parrots are vocal learners, meaning they grasp sounds by hearing and then imitating them. Although several other bird species can discern and repeat sounds, parrots are the pros.

Erich Jarvis, a Duke University neuroscientist and vocal learning expert, recently published a study in Plos One explaining why. Any bird that’s a vocal learner has a part of the brain devoted to this, called the ‘song system.’ But in parrots, the song system has two layers—an inner ‘core,’ common to all avian vocal learners, and an outer ‘shell,’ which is unique to parrots. Jarvis thinks that this recently discovered ‘shell’ is what allows parrots to be such expert mimickers (though he hasn’t figured out exactly how it works yet).

But why do they copy human speech? Peer pressure, it turns out. Parrots naturally try to fit in, be it among other parrots or other people.

More:
https://www.audubon.org/news/why-do-parrots-talk?utm_source=engagement&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2015-08-27_email_wingspan

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Reply Why Do Parrots Talk? (Original post)
Judi Lynn Aug 2015 OP
Spitfire of ATJ Aug 2015 #1
AlbertCat Aug 2015 #2
bigmonkey Aug 2015 #3
pokerfan Aug 2015 #4

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Aug 28, 2015, 01:52 AM

1. That one looks like Einstein...

 



We have a sun conure.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Aug 28, 2015, 10:39 AM

2. And do they know what they’re saying?

 

Why would anyone even think this? How ridiculous can a person get?


It's like the arguments I had on this very sight about whether dogs understand language.... as if recognizing a few commands is language.


Sheesh!

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Response to AlbertCat (Reply #2)

Fri Aug 28, 2015, 03:10 PM

3. Pepperberg's research points in the opposite direction from your perspective.

You could read up on it, or maintain your current "common sense" opinion. Science is a powerful activity - you could benefit!

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Aug 28, 2015, 08:11 PM

4. Do humans know what they’re saying?

When a parrot says “Hello; how are you?” when its owner enters the room, for example, it’s “not necessarily interested in your well being” but is mimicking what it hears the owner saying when he or she comes in. In fact, a parrot’s understanding of “how are you,” is probably “Oh look, someone has come into the room.”

It's often the case that people who say "Hello; how are you?" aren't really interested in your well being either. It's more along the lines of “Oh look, someone has come into the room.”

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