Scientist Karl Berg has constructed a bunch of parrot nests on a Venezuelan ranch, and he’s got mini-cams in those nests recording everything these little birds do.
Berg has listened to so many parrots in so many nests for so long, he has been able to identify that weeks after birth, these little birds begin to use very specific peeps to identify themselves to others.
Not only that, they learn the peeping “names” of their parents, brothers, sisters, and use them in conversation, as in, “Peep-duh-dee-Peep, is that you?”
This video (narrated by Cornell’s Mark Dantzker), and you’ll see how Karl Berg did an experiment that strongly suggests that parrot moms and dads choose their baby’s names.
Of course, parrots aren’t the only ones. There is now ample evidence that dolphins and orca do this as well, and it’s quite likely that elephants do something similar. Probably not with clicks and whistles as is the case with dolphins.
We tend to think of humans as being something special and unique, but in truth, it’s not a black and white difference of kind, but rather a difference of degree. And, even then, it’s not at all clear whether we are intrinsically, biologically “smarter” than, say, an orca – in the end it may simply wind up being we got to that whole civilization thing first.
Text by Robert Krulwich on NPR.