Alex was a parrot; perhaps the most intelligent parrot to ever live; thanks to years of extensive training at the hands of his owner; scientist and animal cognition professor Irene Pepperberg. She, along with her team of researchers, taught the bird not only to talk but also to understand language and numerical concepts up to about the level of a five-year-old human, which opened doors to new study in the field. In a nutshell, what Alex showed the world is that “bird brain” isn’t such a disparaging term after all.
This book; a memoir; covers the thirty years Irene spent working with Alex without bogging readers down in scientific explanations. The learning experiments she conducted are covered in simple terms and, aside from a few irrelevant details regarding her career struggles, pages fly along fairly interestingly. What’s amazing if true, of course, are the little, often humorous, anecdotes of Alex and his intellectual antics; accounts of him doing things popular science says birds simply shouldn’t be able to do.
my rating : 3 of 5