A New Take on Bird Brains

BY Jenny Marder  May 3, 2011 at 12:05 PM EST


Ever wonder how much our animals understand us when we talk to them? When parrots talk, are they consciously forming words or just mimicking sounds?

Science correspondent Miles O’Brien addresses these questions in the National Science Foundation’s* latest Science Nation piece. The piece features Harvard University comparative psychologist Irene Pepperberg, who believes the African Grey Parrots that she works with understand concepts like color, shape and numbers and have the intelligence of a 5-year-old child. She also believes that understanding these bird brains better can benefit work with humans.

“We’ve used these training techniques with autistic children to help them learn speech, learn communication skills, and they do learn,” Pepperberg said.

For the record, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.