Scientists at Brandeis University have lost an important member of their research team: Alex an African Grey parrot.
Irene Pepperberg, a scientist at the university, purchased Alex from an animal shop in 1973. Over the years, the parrot learned enough English to identify 50 different objects, seven colors and five shapes. Alex helped researchers better understand the avian brain and was able to count to six, identify colors and even express frustration with repetitive scientific trials.
Alex was also known to occasionally instruct the two other parrots at the lab to “talk better” if they mumbled. It was not clear if he was simply mimicking researchers.
Pepperberg believes Alex had not yet reached his full cognitive potential. Recently he was demonstrating the ability to take distinct sounds from words he knew and combine them to form new words. Just last month he pronounced the word “seven” for the first time.
Alex was discovered dead in his cage Friday morning, but the cause is unknown. The African Grey parrot’s average life span is 50 years.
Alex will be missed by many.