The Grey Roost
Picture by Jenny Pegg
Known as one of the most famous African Grey parrots in history, Alex pioneered new avenues in avian intelligence. He possessed more than 100 vocal labels for different objects, actions, colors and could identify certain objects by their particular material. He could count object sets up to the total number six and was working on seven and eight. Alex exhibited math skills that were considered advanced in animal intelligence, developing his own “zero-like” concept in addition to being able to infer the connection between written numerals, objects sets, and the vocalization of the number. Alex was learning to read the sounds of various letters and had a concept of phonemes, the sounds that make up words.
Alex’s personality was very evident in his everyday life. He was “in charge” of his home and relished ordering “his” humans to perform various tasks for him. He also acted as a coach and cheerleader to his fellow birds, Wart and Griffin, alternately encouraging or admonishing them during their lessons. His favorite toys were cardboard boxes, key chains and corks.
Purchased from a Chicago pet store in June, 1977, at that time he was 12 to 13 months old. Alex came from humble beginnings. Alex’s accomplishments proved that all African Grey parrots have an intelligence far beyond what was previously thought before his decades- long work with Dr. Pepperberg. Sadly, Alex passed way on September 6, 2007, dying of sudden, unexpected catastrophic event associated with arterosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries"). It was either a fatal arrhythmia, heart attack or stroke, which caused him to die suddenly with no suffering. He was 31 years old.
We miss him dearly.