Budgerigars can be taught to recognise basic grammatical patterns – an ability which was previously thought to be exclusive to humans, a study has found.
Researchers have proved that the birds are able to pick out abstract patterns in a series of meaningless words, something only previously shown in humans.
Their ability is roughly equivalent to that of a seven-month-old child – for example, a baby is able to realise that ‘ga-ti-ga’ and ‘wo-fi-wo’ have a similar pattern, which can be described as ‘X-Y-X’.
Scientists at Duke University in the US played budgerigars songs made up of three parts, with the structure X-X-Y, or X-Y-X. Each time they heard X-X-Y they got a reward if they pecked a lever. But if they got it wrong, the light in their cage went out.
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers said similar tests carried out on rats, monkeys and other birds have ‘not yet provided unambiguous evidence’ of grammatical ability. Lead researcher Michelle Spiering said budgies are brighter than many other birds because they ‘sing more flexible songs’. — Daily Mail