12 September 07
By now it has been widely reported that Alex, the gifted African Grey parrot from whom we learned so much about avian cognition and communication, died suddenly a week ago at the age of 31. He was the friend and research subject of comparative psychologist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who started working with him in 1977. Using a novel technique that emphasized social aspects of learning, Pepperberg was able to teach him categorization, shapes, colors, small numbers, the names of 50 different objects and express all this in English speech. One of my deep beliefs is that there is a great deal going on in the thoughts and feelings of our vertebrate friends; Alex was a fine teacher to all of us in that regard.