Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Maybe he's just resting

Alex the Parrot, a smarty pants know-it-all bird who recognized shapes and colors, understood the concept of zero, and even made fun of bad grammar, has died, apparently of natural causes. He was 31.

Alex was considered the smartest parrot in the world, with the intellect of a five-year-old child, but the emotional development of a two-year-old, which would explain all the tantrums. The parrot once starred alongside Alan Alda on a PBS show. He used to admonish the scientists in his lab to "talk better."

Researcher Irene Pepperberg of Brandeis and Harvard Universities bought Alex in 1977, apparently unaware that she was purchasing the Einstein of birds. There is a creepy divergence in the reporting surrounding Alex's final conversation with Pepperberg.

The New York Times says:
As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, she recalled, Alex looked at her and said: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”
But the Boston Globe reports more ominously:
Pepperberg said she and Alex went through their good-night routine, in which she told him it was time to go in the cage and said: "You be good. I love you. I'll see you tomorrow."

To which Alex said, "
You'll be in tomorrow."
The emphasis is my own, but the point stands. Was the bird trying to tell Pepperberg he was dying?

Unsatisfied with the reporting, I contacted Pepperberg and she told me via email that Alex's chilling final words came in unrhymed iambs:
Ask for me tomorrow, and / you shall find me a grave man.
J/K. The bird did not quote from Romeo and Juliet, Act III, scene i.

Pepperberg's actual response was cryptic. Asked which version was true, she said "Alex said most of it...I told him I loved him, too..." I think she's covering for the dead bird. Fortunately, an eagle-eyed NaturalBlog coworker managed to find this video of Alex's final moments:

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Anonymous Biff Tannen said...

Best blog entry ever. Alex can also be seen in this video:

September 14, 2007  

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