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2010 February

Parrot Blog > 2010 February | You are here

2010 February

African Grey Takes Up Residence In Bar

February 22nd, 2010

A Longford publican has come up with a novel way to attract the crowds into his pub during the recession. Eddie Valentine recently purchased a pet parrot and his feathery friend is now taking up residence behind the bar in Valentine’s. Since ‘Coco’s’ arrival in recent days there has been an air of excitement in the Main Street public house and Eddie says his customers can’t get enough of the African Grey.
“People just love him. He barks like a dog, meows like a cat, whistles and talks. He can even sing ‘You raise me up’ by Westlife. He really is the new focal point of the bar.”

Eddie then explained why he decided to buy the unusual pet for the bar.

“Well I’ve always wanted a parrot but instead of keeping him at home where he wouldn’t get any attention I decided to bring him to the bar. I’m always here so he’ll have company.”

He then described the bird’s transition period to his new environment.

“I knew it would take him a few days to settle in but I couldn’t believe how happy he was within a day or two. It’s in the African’s Grey’s nature to be very sociable and he’s in his element here now.”

The cheeky chappy has even got his owner in trouble on a few occasions.

“He can say some lovely things and he can say some very crude things and sometimes he can do it in front of a crowd which can be quite embarrassing. I’ve been teaching him some new words since he came to the bar though – now he can say ‘Ed loves Coco’.

Such is the impact of the new addition to the bar that a famous Irish entrepreneur is considering buying one for his own business. Eddie explained: “Bill Cullen heard about Coco the other day and he rang Jackie straight away in Molly D’arcy’s to tell her to get him a parrot too!”

When asked is it fair to keep a pet like this in a public house Eddie is quick to defend his decision.

“I don’t agree it’s cruel. He’s out of harm’s way in behind the bar and he’s being well looked after by me and my staff.”

Coco is celebrating his third birthday this Friday night and Eddie has decided to make a real night of it. “We’re planning a huge birthday party for him with a cake and lots of finger food and everyone is invited to help him celebrate.”

African Grey parrots can live up to the ripe old age of 70 and Eddie says he plans to hand his pet down to his children so he can live on in the bar for future generations to see.

So do you agree that a parrot should be able to live in a bar or not? Please comment below with your thoughts on the subject Thanks :o)


Rhythm In Animals Reveals Evolution Of Human Music

February 8th, 2010

Alex was small, but precocious. He could count to six, do simple math, name shapes and colors, even help other students learn to speak. But the real surprise came when he heard music. Even though he’d never learned how, Alex began to dance.

Here’s the thing: Alex was a bird.

Although the African Grey parrot was already famous for his intelligence and linguistic abilities, there had been no signs of any musical talent. That changed in 2007, when Adena Schachner, a Harvard University PhD student who researches the origins of musical behavior, played Alex a song she’d composed.

“We were completely shocked to see that spontaneously, of his own accord, the parrot started to, it looked like, move to the beat,” Schachner said. Other researchers had told her that auditory entrainment — that is, listening to an external rhythm and moving the body in time with it — was a uniquely human skill. But mathematical analysis of Alex’s head bobs revealed that he was legitimately in sync with the music. So much for unique.

For humans, musical rhythm is universal and ingrained. Dance is found in every culture on Earth. Until recently, however, the evolutionary origins of our rhythmic ability had largely gone unprobed. Now, scientists like Schachner are looking to examples of rhythm in animals for insight into how we got the beat.

The first logical place to look for musical behavior like our own is in other primates. Chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary cousins, drum on logs and tree roots with their hands to display social dominance. Gorillas famously beat on their chests. And macaque monkeys, whose last common ancestor with humans lived 30 million years ago, shake branches in the wild — or cage bars when they’re captive — to tell other monkeys who’s boss.

Recent research demonstrates that for primates, like for us, rhythm and social communication are closely linked. Macaques process drum sounds in the same brain regions as vocal calls, according to a study published last October in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-author Cristoph Kayser, who studies how the brain processes auditory information at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, explained that the corresponding brain regions in humans are specialized to analyze a speaker’s emotional state. In other words, just as we may hear sadness or anger in a piece of music, a macaque can sense excitement or agitation in a fellow macaques’ drum beats.

But primates’ musical abilities end there. Although apes and monkeys can hammer out a rhythm, they can’t entrain to an external one. Attempts to teach them how have failed, according to Anniruddh Patel, who studies music and the brain at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, Calif. That’s why it was such a surprise that an animal less closely related to humans, like Alex the parrot, could move on beat.

Alex died unexpectedly before Schachner’s research on him could continue, but he wasn’t the only dancing bird. Patel also works with Snowball, a sulfur-crested cockatoo whose proclivity for bopping to the Backstreet Boys made him a YouTube sensation. When he saw a video of Snowball swinging his head and stomping his legs to music, Patel remembers thinking: “Holy cow, this looks like it might be real.”

To determine if Snowball was truly entraining or merely hitting the beat by coincidence, Patel played the bird sped-up versions of the Backstreet Boys song. Sure enough, the faster the song played, the faster Snowball rocked out. That meant he could both recognize the rhythm and finely adjust his muscle movements to match it, which is the same thing we do when we dance.

“It suggests that you don’t need a human nervous system to have this behavior,” said Patel. He co-authored a paper on Snowball that appeared alongside Schachner’s study on Alex in Current Biology last May.

Schachner’s team also cast a wider net across the animal kingdom by searching YouTube for dancing pet videos. If something looked like entrainment, they analyzed it frame-by-frame to determine if the animal was truly on tempo. They found evidence of genuine entrainment in 14 bird species — including parrots, macaws and cockatoos — and in African elephants.

Our last common ancestor with elephants lived tens of millions of years ago, and birds’ evolutionary line split off long before that. So why do birds and elephants share something with us that our closer primate relatives don’t?

The link, Patel and Schachner believe, is vocal mimicry. Each of the species that can entrain to music has also evolved the ability to imitate external sound. Birds like parrots can imitate other bird calls and human speech. Elephants can reproduce the sounds of other elephants — and even, in one recently recorded case, the sound of trucks passing on a highway.

“The theory is that part of the machinery that’s necessary for keeping a beat originally evolved for vocal imitation,” Schachner said. That means that dancing may not be a beneficial adaptation itself, but rather a lucky side effect of one.

Or, as Patel put it, “It may be something that comes along for the ride when you have a certain kind of brain.”

The kind of brain you need seems be a social one. As he continues his research with Snowball, Patel is finding that the bird’s motivation to dance increases when there’s a person around. That neatly mirrors a recent study with human infants, which demonstrated that they can drum on a beat more accurately when they’re drumming with a human partner, rather than with a drumming robot or a sound alone. The work was published this past November in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

The study’s lead author, Sebastian Kirschner of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, says the research suggests an innate social motivation to synchronize, which may turn out to be “typically human, but not uniquely human.”

Harvard’s Schachner is now focusing her research on beat-keeping in humans — she wants to see if moving in synchrony helps people cooperate better. Ultimately, she hopes the work will clarify the origins of our ability to socialize, and perhaps of music itself.

“It’s a phenomenon that’s so important to so many people,” Schachner said, “and we have no idea how it got there.”

By Mara Grunbaum

Family searches for their lost Parrot!.

February 2nd, 2010

A Derry woman says she’s sick with worry after her pet parrot went missing on Thursday night.
Princess the parrot has ruffled a few feathers in the Bryson house since she made her escape through an open door in St Johnston at tea time on Thursday. Her owner Lena Bryson has now offered a reward for the safe return of her Princess.

“Princess is an African grey parrot,” she explained. “We were at my mother’s home in St Johnston when she flew out of a door that had been left open. We watched as Princess flew in the direction of Derry but we haven’t see her since.

“I’m not even sure if she’ll be able to cope on her own.”

Lena who says this is her pet’s first trip away from home, has asked local people to keep an eye out for Princess.

“I’m afraid that someone might mistake her for a pigeon,” she said. “But Princess has a big beak. She is a beloved family pet and we are desperate to get her back. She is so well behaved.

“Princess says things like ‘Can I have a wee cup of tea?’ She can also wink and dance. Princess comes up to your face and says ‘Give me a wee kiss’ and gives you a peck on the lips.

‘Likes females’

“Princess like females more than males, if a female approaches her, and puts her hand near her feet, she will probably come up to her hand. I’m hoping someone will have seen Princess or know where she is.”

Last year we reported how Askim the parrot flew an amazing 30 miles from his home in Maydown to Dunree Fort in Buncrana, where he was spotted by a neighbour.

If you have any information about Princess please contact Lena Bryson on 07547815372

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