If you adopt a bird or are thinking of doing so, you probably wonder to yourself, “Does this bird remember his previous owners?” and we can confidently say the answer to that is, yes.
Do Birds Remember Their Previous Owners? Yes, especially parrots. Parrots have memories that are superior to other animals, as they are known to navigate by memory. However, birds, in general, are able to recall actions by their previous owners, and they will act accordingly, such as being shy or aggressive.
If you have ever interacted with a dog or cat who has come from an abusive home, you know it will take some time for him to warm up to you.
The same goes for birds-these smart creatures are good at remembering things. Read on to learn just what they can do.
Just How Good Is A Bird’s Memory?
Some of you may have heard the phrase “bird brain” as a derogatory term for a person who is not too bright. This couldn’t be further from the truth about how great the memories of birds are.
Bird memories are pretty strong after all. Although pigeons are not what many people keep as pets, their memories were found to be very good.
Scientists showed images in front of the pigeons and then told them to peck in a spot if they saw the same image later on.
They managed to memorize 800 to 1200 pictures before their memories became too full and the performance petered out.
There was even one pigeon who remembered 68% of the 1,978 images he was shown. This study was performed at the Mediterranean Institute for Cognitive Neurosciences.
Parrots Have Serious Memory Capability
Now that we’ve shown just how amazing pigeons are when it comes to remembering things, let’s take a look at parrots.
Parrots have to know the location and travel routes to food that they may only have access to once per year, therefore they are naturally gifted with the ability to remember things long-term.
Parrots who have been the victims of abuse also tend to suffer from symptoms very similar to PTSD, and they will absolutely elicit a negative response to any situations or objects that remind them of instances of abuse.
These birds, much like humans, may be desensitized and healed with enough care and training as well as time.
For parrots living in the wild, memories for triggering incidences like rare predators could be what saves their life, so the evolutionary reasons behind this natural talent is very clear.
Although the avian veterinarian is the furthest thing from a predator one could possibly get, visits to the vet are usually few and far between save for annual checkups.
As a result, we think our pets would not remember him or her. However, one scientist studying parrots, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, recalled a few interesting stories about her subjects Griffin and Athena and the famous Alex.
For Alex, he would be given organic cherries which are only available for a short period of time each year. However, Dr. Pepperberg states, he would speak the phrase “Cherry” extremely clearly.
For Griffin and Athena, mentions of the avian veterinarian, avian doctors, or even the phrases “vet” or “Veterinarian” and the vet’s name-brought anxious behavior to these two parrots.
The team had to resort to using the phrase “she who must not be named” in reference to the doctor when they were around Griffin and Athena.
Griffin and Athena also had the ability to remember students from long ago. Alex did not like strangers, states Dr. Pepperberg, but he always welcomed tall, blond men.
It led the team to wonder if, in Alex’s past, there had been a tall blond man who possibly hand-fed him.
Griffin did not respond well to new students, who usually have to wait many weeks before he accepts them and trusts them.
But returning students, writes Pepperberg, are always remembered by Griffin and welcomed. In one instance, she states, a student returned after a five-year absence and Griffin had treated it as though it was a mere five-minute break.
Athena, on the other hand, was a demonstration of how each bird has its own personality. She happily met with everyone, presumably because newcomers did not know enough to stop her from chewing on jewelry or glasses.
Knowledge of People’s Faces and Voices
Two studies performed by experts at the University of Lincoln in the UK and University of Vienna involved pigeons and crows, and the published result was that pigeons are good at discerning between familiar and unfamiliar humans, and make use of facial features to tell them apart.
For this study, the team taught a group of pigeons how to recognize the difference between photos of familiar and unfamiliar objects. Then, they were shown photos of pairs of human faces.
One photo was that of a face the bird had seen before, while the other was a perfect stranger.
The birds who had been trained on how to recognize and classify familiar people using just their faces did well while the other group who had not been trained failed.
The end result is that pigeons can learn to discriminate between people based on their facial characteristics alone.
The lead researcher, Dr. Anna Wilkinson, stated that this is rarely observed but still very valuable in terms of the bird’s survival.
Some humans feed the pigeons whilst others run and chase them away. To know who is friend and who is foe is advantageous to living a long life.
For the study involving crows, the researchers investigated the ability of carrion crows to tell the difference between calls of familiar and unfamiliar human beings as well as other heterospecific individuals, a.k.a. those outside of their own species.
The result was that the crows responded more often to unfamiliar instead of familiar human voices, as well as jackdaw calls, they found familiar. This also explains why pet birds are so loyal – we describe how loyal they can be in this article!
This leads to the conclusion that birds can discriminate between those outside of their own species using the sounds they hear that come from these heterospecific individuals.
As you see, birds are incredibly smart and they remember their previous owners indeed. For new owners, this means that they might have to deal with a bird’s bad (or good) behavior that the bird shows because of previous experiences.
If this behavior is good everything is all right. However, as you know, this is very rarely the case.
So if your adopted pet bird is showing bad behavior, it doesn’t have to be your fault – but it is your responsibility to help your bird understanding that there is no reason for fear and bad behavior anymore.
If you need help with dealing with your bird’s behavior, we have created several articles that might give you the answers you seek:
- 10 potential reasons why your parrot is so afraid
- 6 Reasons why your parrot is afraid of you
- Why is my parrot suddenly aggressive?
- Are parrots dangerous?
Do Birds Remember Their Siblings? Most birds do not after the first year. Some birds are the exception to the rule, such as cranes, jays, and crows. Canada geese also may rejoin their parents and their siblings during the winter as well as during the migration period.
Do Birds Get Attached to Their Owners? Some parrots can become very attached to their owners or may develop a strong sexual bond to one individual. They may become aggressive toward anybody else who enters into their territory. Other parrots will still be tame with owners even if they reside with another parrot.
Do Birds Have Memory? Scientists have discovered that the common pigeon has a really great long-term memory, with one pigeon as part of the study memorizing 1200 pictures. Even though birds are very different from other animals, the way their memories work have important similarities.
While much of the evidence presented is scientific in nature, there is much that is anecdotal at best-however that is not to say that birds don’t have impressive memories that do, in fact, allow them to remember the actions and mannerisms of their previous owners.