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African Grey Parrot Has Sense of Humor and Huge Vocabulary

A captive African grey parrot named N'kisi is breaking down barriers in interspecies communication, perhaps more so than any other animal on earth. N’kisi has a vocabulary of 950 words, shows signs of a sense of humor and is able to come up with new words and phrases to explain novel ideas (just as human children do).

The parrot is raising the bar when it comes to scientists’ perceptions of animals’ cognitive abilities, and has some concerned that other captive parrots may not be getting their intellectual needs met. Among some of N’kisi’s stunning examples of intellect:

  • Inventing the phrase “pretty smell medicine” to describe aromatherapy
  • Saying “Got a chimp?” upon meeting chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall for the first time (after viewing photos of her with apes)
  • Saying "You got to put this bird on the camera," when another parrot hung upside down on his perch

There’s clearly a lot left to be uncovered when it comes to humans’ relationships with animals. It’s already known, for instance, that having a pet can play a significant role in having good health.

BBC News January 26, 2004