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Bird Brains: Why Being Called One Could Be a Compliment

Unlocking the Genius of Feathered Friends: From Parrots to Ravens, Intelligence Soars in the Avian World


a raven dropping pebbles into a glass of water

In this post, we delve into the fascinating world of avian intelligence, debunking the myth of "bird brains" and showcasing the remarkable problem-solving abilities and communication skills of companion parrots and other feathered creatures. From the renowned studies of Dr. Irene Pepperberg with her African Gray Parrot, Alex, to the clever antics of ravens and crows, we explore the surprising depth of avian intellect. Discover how proper care and enrichment can nurture the mental and emotional well-being of our feathered friends, and learn why the dedicated pet sitters at Oh, Fur Pet’s Sake are the perfect flockmates for your cherished avian companions.

When someone insults someone else’s intelligence, they may refer to them as a “bird brain.” However, being called a bird brain could be a compliment. These elegant feathered creatures possess many charms: beauty, flight, strong pair bonds, and brains. Companion parrots come in many sizes and species, and all possess a more complex problem-solving ability than many people may have believed.


a parakeet standing on a branch

The talking species are often considered the “smarter” birds, though it is believed that most birds repeat phrases and words that their owners have often repeated enough for them to learn. However, studies conducted by Dr. Irene Pepperberg with her African Gray Parrot, Alex, have shown that these creatures can solve problems and form simple sentences to get the point or question across. When confronted with an unknown fruit, such as a watermelon, Alex used two words that he was familiar with to describe the new taste: water and fruit. He could also describe objects by size, color, and number. Even though Alex died in 2007, Dr. Pepperberg has continued her work with other Grays, showing that Alex’s intelligence was not an anomaly as the other parrots have demonstrated even more capacity to work out problems and communicate.


Myna birds, Ravens, and Crows also share the ability to speak and have formed strong bonds with their human flock members. Though these species are not frequently kept as pets, they are ambassadors of the bird world who have been observed being able to work a puzzle box to obtain food treats and figure out how to raise the water level in a container to quench their thirst.


Even smaller pet species, such as parakeets (budgies), cockatiels, and parrotlets, are incredibly quick at figuring out how to work out simple problems and communicate to meet their needs. There are several ways we, as owners and caregivers, can support the health and well-being of these magnificent creatures so that they can live their best lives as companion animals.


a cockatiel

First, we can ensure they have the ideal diet and housing. Smaller birds are slightly easier to house because they don’t require huge cages, but bigger is always better for any pet bird. In addition, they need lots of enrichment through appropriate-sized toys, perches in various sizes, opportunities to get out of the cage, and access to regular chances for baths and foraging.


In days past, owners were told to provide seeds, nuts, and millet for most pet birds. Thankfully, science and husbandry practices have caught up to the nutritional needs of our feathered babies. Parrots of all species will thrive on fresh and cooked chopped vegetables, grains, and fresh salad items. They will also welcome warm, cooked diets that offer a variety of tastes and textures. A variety of prepared pelleted diets are available for pet owners. Pellets offer owners the convenience of knowing that their fid (feathered kid) receives a nearly complete formulated diet with little waste. When these diets are paired with fresh vegetables and limited fruit, parrots flourish with healthy feathers and optimal health and energy.


Parrots also need the company of their “flock.” They are incredibly social animals, forming tight bonds with their mates and extended flocks. For this reason, many owners worry about their fid when they have to be away for an extended time. That is where dedicated and loving pet sitters can fill the need. The Oh, Fur Pet’s Sake staff can ensure that your precious– and often long-lived - – companion parrot is cared for and loved with the same devotion you and your feathered baby deserve.


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