September 12, 2007

R.I.P. Alex the Parrot

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Alex, a parrot who had a rich vocabulary and no inhibitions in using it, died at the age of 31.

The title question in Why Do Pirates Love Parrots? wasn't the only parrotcentric Imponderable in the book. We also discussed a question from Wayne Lipe of Long Beach, New York: Why Do Parrots and Other Birds Mimic Human Speech and Other Sounds?. Alex and his researcher-owner, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, were stars of the chapter.

Alex was a handful. Our favorite quote from Pepperberg: "If he says that he wants a grape and you give him a banana, you are going to end up wearing the banana."

In today's editorial notebook, Verlyn Klinkenborg weighs in on the scientific implications of Alex's feats.