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The 5 Smart pet birds You Can Keep as Pets

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Animal intelligence has been studied for years and birds are often at the top of the list of smartest animals. But some birds, including parrot species that are often kept as pets, have shown to be smarter than others.

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African Grey Parrot

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African Grey parrots are the most heavily studied species of pet birds and have demonstrated a very high level of intelligence. One of the most famous African Greys was named Alex but he passed away in 2007 at the young age of 31 years. He was purchased from a pet store at the age of one year by a doctoral student at the time, Dr. Pepperberg, who cared for him and studied him his entire life.

Up until Alex, most research on avian intelligence was done using pigeons and needless to say, was disappointing. Alex changed people’s thoughts on what a bird was capable of learning. Over the years and up until his death, Alex learned over 100 English words and was thought to have the intelligence level of a five-year-old when he passed away.

Critics of Alex’s studies argue he may have simply been a product of operant conditioning and not true understanding but even if it was simply a trained response, Alex’s abilities far surpass anything most pet birds have been able to achieve. Because of Alex, African Grey parrots now have a reputation for being quite smart birds and need constant mental stimulation. 02 of 05


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Also considered parrots like the African Grey, there are several different types of macaws, including the longest parrot on the planet, the Hyacinth macaw. All parrots, and therefore macaws, are thought to have similar levels of intelligence.

The intelligence level of some macaws has been compared to that of a human toddler. They can problem-solve, use tools, and have high levels of communication with other birds, utilizing sounds and even physical changes, such as face blushing.

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A Canadian study showed that after analyzing 98 different bird brains there is a definite difference in the size of one specific part of a parrot’s brain. This part of the parrot’s brain is similar to that of a primate’s, another highly intelligent animal, and is responsible for communicating between the cortex and cerebellum. It is called the spiriform nucleus and in parrots is two to five times larger than it is in a chicken. This part of the brain is thought to play a major role in the planning and execution of advanced behaviors. 03 of 05


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The cockatoo, also a type of parrot, was the first type of bird to be seen making musical instruments. In Australia, palm cockatoos were observed using twigs and seed pods to make drumsticks, and other types of cockatoos can sway to a musical beat, demonstrating they have an understanding of rhythm.

One study utilized Goffin cockatoos, a small type of cockatoo, and demonstrated their recognition of object permanence. Object permanence is simply the idea that someone can understand that just because an object isn’t visible, it’s still there. The example of a nut in a pocket that is out of sight is often used to describe object permanence studies in birds. In human babies, solving an object permanence puzzle isn’t typically able to be done until 18 to 24 months of age. To no surprise, the study showed that wild Goffin cockatoos have spatial reasoning abilities that are comparable to primates and human babies. 04 of 05


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More commonly referred to as budgies or the common parakeet, the budgerigar is one of the smallest members of the parrot family (with the parrotlet being the actual smallest parrot). But just because it’s small, doesn’t mean that the budgie isn’t smart.

Budgies were the first non-mammal species to demonstrate an understanding of the human language, but they only place them on par with a seven-month-old human child. One study showed that budgies were able to recognize a specific pattern of meaningless words, something that demonstrates the ability to pick out an abstract pattern. This is important because, before this study, only humans, rats, monkeys, and other intelligent species had shown they were able to do this. 05 of 05


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Like the other types of birds on this list, there are many different kinds of conures and all conures are types of parrots. Because of this, conures also require a lot of mental stimulation and enrichment to keep their smart brains busy. A lot of exercises, toys, and social activities are a must for a conure. Whether it’s a Green-cheeked, Jenday, or Sun conure, all conures will be sure to show you just how smart they are.

Here are other list of 5 smart pet birds

Birdbrain, dodo, silly goose, chicken. Somehow, birds have really gotten a bad rap. But in reality, characterising birds as dumb is pretty far from the truth. While most birds are amazing vocalists, the lyrebird is the undisputed Andre Gagnon of the animal world. It’s also been suggested that the common starling has an IQ on par with dogs while jays, crows and ravens create and use tools.

We asked Toronto-based veterinarian Dr. Evan Mavromatis of the Links Road Animal Clinic, a practice specialising in birds, exotics and small pets, to tell us who’s at the top of the class when it comes to pet birds. 

Smart pet birds:

1. African Grey Parrot

“This is the genius of the bird world,” says Dr. Mavromatis. “And like many geniuses, greys can be socially awkward, nervous and eccentric. I see a lot of behavioural problems with them because they are so incredibly intelligent — on par with a five- or six-year-old child!”

Greys are famous for their ability to make sentences and speak in context. In other words, they are not just parroting what they hear, but they understand what they are saying. They can ask for things and tell their owners how they feel.

2. Macaws and Cockatoos
“With these birds, the bigger they are, the smarter they are,” explains Dr. Mavromatis. “But, as with all birds, intelligence is an individual thing. And of course, personality plays a huge role too. Macaws are very affectionate but can be kind of pushy and cockatoos are amazingly dexterous and love to take things apart — like their cages. I’ve seen a cockatoo disassemble the cage it was in and just walk away!” he says.

These birds are also very loud, demanding, social and seriously long-lived — up to 50 to 70 years.

3. Budgerigar (budgies)
Make no mistake, these common pet birds are tiny parrots and they’re just as clever. “Budgies are like little sponges for information,” says Dr. Mavromatis. “They’re great talkers, very curious and are about as intelligent as a two-year-old child. What’s sad is, since they cost only a few bucks at a pet shop, they don’t get the respect they deserve.”

And like all parrots — all birds, really — budgies love music and, like the famous Frosty the Cockatoo, are likely to break out in dance!

4. Conures, Green Amazons, Parakeets, Quakers, Lovebirds
Whether from Australia, Africa or the Amazon, these smaller parrots are also good talkers and according to Dr. Mavromatis, can excel at problem solving.

“I’ve seen a green-cheeked conure learn how to use his feet and beak to pull up a string with a peanut tied to the bottom,” he says. “They love figuring things out.” And it’s true, lovebirds don’t like being alone. All birds need companionship, but especially these little ones.

5. Canaries, Finches and Bantam Chickens
Each of these pet birds have their own talents and quirky personalities. Male canaries are treasured for their beautiful song, finches for their cuteness and funny, mechanical toy chirping, and, yes, some folks even keep tiny bantam silkies and other chickens as pets. They are full of hilarious personality and hey, you can even buy chicken diapers!

Ultimately, birds are only as intelligent as their surroundings allow. If Einstein had never left his room and had no mental stimulation, chances are he wouldn’t have been, well, Einstein.

To bring out the best in any bird, give them freedom, toys, interaction, companionship and challenges — and think twice before you think of someone as a birdbrain again!