Parrot fashion, Czech style
For thousands of years, humans and animals have been communicating in various ways but it wasn't until much more recently that interspecies communication became a focus of scientific research. The team at the Laboratory of Interspecies Communication in Prague are trying to prove that parrots don't always talk parrot fashion.
"The African Grey parrot is known to be a good imitator of human speech. So our students and the parrots communicate in Czech. The main objective of our research is not only to study how well the parrots can imitate but whether they are able to use individual words in appropriate situations."
"At the beginning, Marketa the parrot had good results. She could recognise and name her toys. Now she seems bored with the exercise. But she is able to use greetings in appropriate situations, otherwise she doesn't use them. Other parrots greet us, too, when we come into the room. When the phone rings, Marketa always says "Hello". She never uses that word in a different context."
"Originally, we only had Jarina. She wouldn't talk. After a year of teaching, she didn't learn a single word. Then we got Marketa, she was tame and she already had a vocabulary of about twenty words. We put them together and over one weekend, when no one was here, Jarina learnt her first word, "Cau"or "hello". She doesn't learn from us, she certainly learns from Marketa. But we don't know whether she understands the words. But the sole fact she learns from a parrot and not from us is interesting."
The team at the Laboratory of Interspecies Communication are now planning to put together the tame birds with a wild flock, hoping the talking birds will teach the wild parrots to recognise objects.
I waited for ages for any of the parrots to utter a meaningful sound, but with my luck all I recorded were shrieks and chirps.
But just as I was leaving, having packed my recording equipment - an unmistakable voice said clearly: "Bye-bye, parrot."