The smartest parrot is an African Grey called Griffin

GrifThe Smartest Parrot – Griffin

Griffin is the smartest parrot and works together on various research project with Dr. Irene Pepperberg. In this latest study Griffin was able to pick up a triangle from an obscure shape. In the experiment Griffin looks at a Kanizsa triangle, which is an optical illusion made up of three Pac-Man figures facing each other and he doesn’t just see three figures covering each other. He sees a triangle. To many of us this may not sound significant but let’s not forget that Griffin is a parrot and his visual system is vastly different from that of humans. This study shows that parrots may process visual information in a similar way to humans and that Griffin is certainly one of the smartest parrots.

“There are 300 million years of evolution that separate us,” Pepperberg said. “Just anatomically, Griffin’s brain is very different from ours. Despite that, these data suggests he is solving these critical survival problems – like avoiding predators and finding food – in ways that are very similar to those of humans.”

The experiment not only reveals how smart parrots are but could also offer important guidance for fields like artificial intelligence.
“This is important, particularly in the context of our understanding of deep learning,” Nakayama said (Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology). “These algorithms can do astonishing things, but they’re very brittle in the sense that they can make terrible mistakes that you and I would never make. We’ve never really tested a human or a machine with this type of test… and if this animal with relatively primitive brain can perform this task, there may be something here that needs to be explored.

Griffin was also able to identify other occluded shapes such as – one, two, three, four, five and six-sided Kanizsa figures.

The preparation

The first step in testing whether Griffin could recognise occluded shapes was for Dr Pepperberg to teach him to recognise shapes in the first place. To do that, Irene and students used wooden blocks and thought Griffin shapes based on the number of corners. For example when shown a square, he eventually would respond by saying “four”.

Whilst Griffin was trained using 3-D wooden shapes the obscure shapes were simply printed on paper. The ability for him to recognise the Kanizsa shape suggests that Griffin understood the relationship between the two different methods.

“He was able to recognise that this flat piece of paper represented the square block on which he was trained,” Pepperberg said. The experiment was performed with 1 – 6 corners per object and different colours, sizes and objects were used and a trial was never repeated twice.


This is just one example of how smart our feathered friends are and emphasises on the need to keep them occupied all the time, as well as physically and mentally challenged. Always make sure that your bird has access to foraging, puzzle, preening and shredding parrot toys. Also do make sure to rotate the toys on a weekly basis. Novelty (interest) wears out and if using the same toy over and over your parrot may lose interest.

This article was first published in the journal Cognition.

Related Posts

Two budgie parakeets sat on natural branch perch. | 5 Fun Parakeet Toys for a Happy Bird

5 Fun Parakeet Toys for a Happy Bird

Did you know that just like kids, birds need toys too? Parakeet toys are important to keep your feathered pet entertained and stimulate natural playing behaviours. Parrot Essentials discusses five…

Read more
What does a parrot need? Parrot necessities checklist | Amazon parrot on playstand

What does a parrot need? Parrot necessities checklist

Thinking of bringing a parrot home? Congratulations, adding a pet to your family is always exciting! But… what does a parrot need? No worries, we’ll help you make sure you’ve…

Read more
African grey parrot

Do parrots understand what they are saying?

If you’ve ever heard one of the more talkative parrots speak, you might have asked yourself: do parrots understand what they’re saying? Sometimes they nail the context so well that…

Read more
19 spices for parrots

Foods for parrots: 19 spices for parrots

As good parrot parents, we’re always looking for new foods to offer to our feathered friends in order to add enrichment and keep their diet rich in nutrients. Parrot Essentials…

Read more
Cockatiel with basil sprig.

36 herbs for parrots | Enriching parrot diet

As parrot owners, we’re always looking for ways to enrich our bird’s daily routine and diet. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and this applies to our birds…

Read more
African grey parrot | All about aspergillosis in parrots

Aspergillosis in parrots | Causes & what to do

Aspergillosis in parrots can be dangerous and is not uncommon. So, let’s take a closer look at this avian disease: prevention is better than cure, so it’s important to know…

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.