Edgewater, New Jersey is home to a boisterous flock of wild Quaker parrots. Unfortunately, for those birds and their human neighbors, it’s also the site of some of the worst industrial poisoning in the United States.
A heartbreaking story and warning from the wonderful BrooklynParrots.com:
The poisons that we place in our world will last for centuries. The species that we are extincting won’t come back. Humans will eventually wake up to the fact that lead, and uncountable other poisons in the air and water, are slowly and silently killing us. This will only occur once people begin to topple and fall, palsied, like my little green friend, unable to even raise themselves to eat.
My little green departed friend was one of those “canaries in the coal mine” and I really hoped he would make it. His death will only be marked here. Nobody, including the media, and especially the politicians, whose livelihoods are supported by the commercial poisoners, will make a peep about it. He will have died in vain, as so many of us do.
Here’s a related story from SierraActivists about the glacial pace of Superfund clean-ups in New Jersey. The post is a few months old, admittedly, but at the rate these projects are progressing, it’s likely still largely accurate. A September 8 NYTimes blurb listed 3 new Superfund sites added in New Jersey, which now has 115 sites, more than any other state.
More about the wild parrots of Edgewater.
Beratin’ meself fer fergitting the approach of Talk Like a Pirate Day and failing to adequately prepare for the occasion, I am.
Allow me an extemporaneous exploration. As one who lives with a psittacine, I believe, like most of my ilk, that much about pirates — from the eyepatch to the Arrrrrrrgghh — can be explained.
If ye’ve been bit by a parrot, ye surely get the “arrrrrghhhhhh”- that along with a great deal of profanity- was pretty much the sound I made the last time it happened to me. And the experts caution about never letting a parrot on yer shoulder. Of course, the parrots don’t give a fuck what the experts say- shoulders are their favorite roost and it’s difficult to keep ‘em from the destination once they’ve begun the traverse. I’ve never lost an eye but my ears have borne witness to the scourge o’ tha beak. Imagine, if you will, someone putting yer earlobe in a sharpened pair of vice grips. Why do they bite? Because it works and they like it, mostly. It’s all about the drama.
“Aarrrrggghhhhhh” indeedy, matey.
Many happy returns o’ the day, ya lily-livered landlubbers and sons o’ the sea alike.
Alex, the African Grey parrot studied by by researcher Irene Pepperberg, died September 6 at the age of 31. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Pepperberg’s work with Alex completely changed the scope of information known about the avian brain and parrots in general.
Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species. Pepperberg says that Alex showed the emotional equivalent of a 2 year-old child and intellectual equivalent of a 5 year-old. Her research with Alex shattered the generally held notion that parrots are only capable of mindless vocal mimicry. In 1973, Dr. Pepperberg was working on her doctoral thesis in theoretical chemistry at Harvard University when she watched Nova programs on signing chimps, dolphin communication and, most notably, on why birds sing. She realized that the fields of avian cognition and communication were not only of personal interest to her but relatively uncharted territory. When she finished her thesis, she left the field of chemistry to pursue a new direction—to explore the avian brain. She decided to conduct her research with an African Grey parrot. In order to assure she was working with a bird representative of its species, she asked the shop owner to randomly choose any African Grey from his collection. It was Alex. And so the one-year old Alex, his name an acronym for the research project, Avian Learning EXperiment, became an integral part of Pepperberg’s life and the pioneering studies she was about to embark upon. Over the course of 30 years of research, Dr. Pepperberg and Alex revolutionized the notions of how birds think and communicate. What Alex taught Dr. Pepperberg about cognition and communication has been applied to therapies to help children with learning disabilities. Alex’s learning process is based on the rival-model technique in which two humans demonstrate to the bird what is to be learned. Dr. Pepperberg will continue her innovative research program with Griffin and Arthur, two other young African Grey parrots who have been a part of the ongoing research program.