Bird brains aren't so dumb

Like most backyard chicken keepers, we have clever (or maybe not so clever) names for all our chickens. And sometimes we feel like they even respond to their names when we call them. But probably not.

But what if chickens had names for themselves and their flock-mates in chicken-language? It turns out that parrots do.

large_parrotlets.JPG They know their names

In the attached video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Mark Dantzker shows that parrots – or at least the Green-Rumped Parrotlet of Venezuela – not only have names, but they learn their own names and their parents’ individual names by about three weeks old. Soon after that, they learn the names of their nest-mates. Of course their names only sound like squawks to us, but they can distinguish them no problem and they use their own names and the names of other parrots to communicate all their lives.

Whether we are studying parrots, ravens or other birds, the more we learn about what we derisively call “bird brains,” the more we learn about their amazing capacities for learning, understanding and communication complex information about their environments and social organizations.

So who is to say that chickens don’t communicate a lot more than we think they do?

Oh, and one more interesting thing about parrots. We all know that pet parrots will mimic not only human words, but barking dogs, ringing telephones and all manner of environmental junk noise. In the wild, they only learn the language of parrots.