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Lots of people will miss you, Alex the parrot....

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter

A gifted parrot that could count to six, identify colors and even express frustration with repetitive scientific trials has died after 30 years of helping researchers better understand the avian brain.

The death of Alex, an African Grey parrot, left scientists at Brandeis University feeling as if they'd lost a colleague.

"It's devastating to lose an individual you've worked with pretty much every day for 30 years," scientist Irene Pepperberg told The Boston Globe. "Someone was working with him 8 to 12 hours every day of his life."

....Pepperberg said the last time she saw Alex on Thursday, they went through their goodnight routine, in which she told him it was time to go in the cage and said: "You be good, I love you. I'll see you tomorrow."

Alex responded, "You'll be in tomorrow."
I've kept up with the research they've done on this amazing bird over the years. It really saddens me to hear he has died. He was truly a parrot prodigy.
post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 
Here's more information on Alex and Dr. Pepperburg from the Alex Foundation website.

Alex, the world renowned African Grey parrot made famous by the ground-breaking cognition and communication research conducted by Irene Pepperberg, Ph.D., died at the age of 31 on September 6, 2007. Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X†and “Wanna go Yâ€, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species. Pepperberg says that Alex showed the emotional equivalent of a 2 year-old child and intellectual equivalent of a 5 year-old. Her research with Alex shattered the generally held notion that parrots are only capable of mindless vocal mimicry.

In 1973, Dr. Pepperberg was working on her doctoral thesis in theoretical chemistry at Harvard University when she watched Nova programs on signing chimps, dolphin communication and, most notably, on why birds sing. She realized that the fields of avian cognition and communication were not only of personal interest to her but relatively uncharted territory. When she finished her thesis, she left the field of chemistry to pursue a new direction—to explore the depths of the avian mind. She decided to conduct her research with an African Grey parrot. In order to assure she was working with a bird representative of its species, she asked the shop owner to randomly choose any African Grey from his collection. It was Alex. And so the 1-year old Alex, his name an acronym for the research project, Avian Learning EXperiment, became an integral part of Pepperberg’s life and the pioneering studies she was about to embark upon.

Over the course of 30 years of research, Dr. Pepperberg and Alex revolutionized the notions of how birds think and communicate. What Alex taught Dr. Pepperberg about cognition and communication has been applied to therapies to help children with learning disabilities. Alex’s learning process is based on the rival-model technique in which two humans demonstrate to the bird what is to be learned. Alex and Dr. Pepperberg have been affiliated with Purdue University, Northwestern University, the University of Arizona, the MIT Media Lab, the Radcliffe Institute, and most recently, Harvard University and Brandeis University.
Alex has been featured worldwide on numerous science programs including the BBC, NHK, Discovery and PBS. He is well known for his interactions with Alan Alda in an episode of Scientific American Frontiers on PBS and from an episode of the famed PBS Nature series called “Look Who’s Talking.†Reports on Alex’s accomplishments have appeared in the popular press and international news from USA Today to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The Science Times section of the New York Times featured Alex in a front-page story in 1999. That same year, Dr. Pepperberg published The Alex Studies, a comprehensive review of her decades of learning about learning from Alex. Many other television appearances and newspaper articles followed.

Alex was found to be in good health at his most recent annual physical about two weeks ago. According to the vet who conducted the necropsy, there was no obvious cause of death. Dr. Pepperberg will continue her innovative research program at Harvard and Brandeis University with Griffin and Arthur, two other young African Grey parrots who have been a part of the ongoing research program.

Alex has left a significant legacy—not only have he and Dr. Pepperberg and their landmark experiments in modern comparative psychology changed our views of the capabilities of avian minds, but they have forever changed our perception of the term “bird brains.â€
I'm so sad. Alex was so special.
post #3 of 10
Oh no, he wasn't that old either. I'm quite upset about this, I've been following Dr Pepperberg's research and reading about Alex for some time now. He's going to be missed - not least by his closest humans who loved him and worked with him every day, but also by his fans around the world.

Rest in peace Alex.
post #4 of 10
I loved reading about Alex. He was such a special bird. I wonder what happened to him. Is 30 years their lifespan? I thought they lived longer then that.
post #5 of 10
He sounds very special. RIP Alex.
post #6 of 10
RIP, Alex. You were so special, and astounded people from all over the globe.
post #7 of 10
RIP Alex, you wonderful parrot.

Even over here in Australia, we have heard of you and your cleverness in working with us humans.

May you have a wonderful time at the Rainbow Bridge until you friends come to see you again.
post #8 of 10
Aww, RIP Alex!!
post #9 of 10
RIP Alex.
post #10 of 10
No!!! I always enjoyed reading and watching clips of him.
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