Parrots: Not Just Smart, Also Selfless


A series of new experiments has demonstrated that in addition to cleverness, African grey parrots have social intelligence making them the ‘humans of the bird world’.

Study #1 overview

Researchers trained the parrots in a new study to exchange metal tokens for treats. The parrots were then placed into paired compartments with a little opening between them. Only one bird had tokens, but only the other bird could reach the treats. From the very first trial, the parrots with tokens gave them away, even though they got nothing in return.

“They were quite intrinsically motivated to help another.”

–Dr. Désirée Brucks, cognitive biologist, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany

The parrots are the first non-mammals observed helping each other in this way, suggesting other animals have evolved the ability to act selflessly.  Scientists call this kind of helpful behavior prosocial.

Study #2 overview

Another in…

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