Brandeis researchers feel as though they’ve lost a colleague: Alex, the African gray parrot they studied for 30 years, died Friday. He helped them reach surprising new conclusions about the avian brain and “was extraordinary in breaking the perceptions of birds as not being intelligent,” according to scientist Irene Pepperberg, who bought him in 1977.
Scientists taught Alex 50 different objects, seven colors and five shapes, and he voiced frustration with repetitive scientific trials. Doctors aren’t sure what prematurely killed the parrot, but Pepperberg, who called Alex’s death “devastating,” said his cognitive development was still maturing. Researchers had been using Alex’s development to study ways of teaching communication to disabled children, the Boston Globe says.