In three decades as a research subject, Alex 31 (an acronym for Avian Learning EXperiment), an African Grey parrot, dazzled the world with his ability to talk, count and identify colors and shapes, along the way providing scientists with unprecedented insights into the avian brain.
Alex, who died unexpectedly last week, was the subject of a thirty-year-long
experiment conducted by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, initially
at the University of Arizona and most recently at Harvard and Brandeis
University. Pepperberg bought Alex in a pet shop when he was
about one year old.
In 2002, Pepperberg's book "The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots" brought the bird and her research widespread attention, showing that creatures so evolutionarily separate from humans can perform the same types of complex cognitive tasks as young