N'kisi: Talking Parrot Genius and Psychic
N'kisi is a 14-year-old African Grey parrot from New York City with a working vocabulary of over 1000 words. N'kisi does not mimic human speech; he converses with people. N'kisi is one of only a handful of parrots, all African Greys (as far as I know), that have been systematically taught to speak and converse with understanding by their owners/trainers. This ground-breaking research on parrot cognition and language development has proven that parrots are highly intelligent animals who reason on the level of three- to five-year-old children. In addition to his astonishing language abilities, N'kisi is reputed to have an extraordinary telepathic connection with his owner.
I stumbled on the story of this little known wunderkind a few months ago when I rented an Animal Planet DVD called Jane Goodall's When Animals Talk. This was on the heels of my "discovery" of another parrot prodigy, ALEX the African Grey, renowned for his remarkable linguistic and cognitive abilities. (Alex, now deceased, is the subject of two books by his longtime owner/trainer, Dr. Irene Pepperberg of Brandeis University. He has been featured on many television programs. [See YouTube videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sqPvsB9-_J0 .] I have a hub on Alex, link below.) I expected to see Alex featured in the Jane Goodall video, but instead I was awe-struck anew by another parrot phenomenon of the same species, named N'kisi.
N'kisi was hand raised by Aimee Morgana, an artist and parrot expert, who began language training when N'kisi was less than a year old. On the website The N'kisi Project, Morgana reports that N'kisi is treated as a member of the family. The bird has been taught "intuitively, as one would teach a child, by explaining things to him in context." This process involves hours a day of teaching and conversing. N'kisi's vocabulary of words, phrases and sentences developed and expanded rapidly under Morgana's teaching. He may well have the most extensive vocabulary of any parrot in the world.
The DVD When Animals Talk showcases N'kisi's expressive vocabulary and communication abilities. Whlen Jane Goodall visited N'kisi and Morgana at home in the making of her Animal Planet special, he greeted her with the question, "Got a chimp?" Morgana had told N'kisi about Goodall's work with chimps and shown him photos. On another occasion, when a pet lizard died, N'kisi commented, "Got a broken there. Gotta put a battery." When Morgana responded, "We can't put a battery in him," N'Kisi replied, "Gotta put a candle." She had previously explained to him the significance of putting a lighted candle in a window.
Jane Goodall's When Animals Talk also includes footage of research on telepathic communication between N'kisi and his owner, Morgana. As Morgana was shown a series of photographs, N'kisi was able to "describe", in a childlike manner, a number of the photos from another room. For example, when Morgana viewed a photo of someone talking on the phone, N'kisi piped up with, "What'cha doin' on the phone?" Another photo of a woman hugging a man elicited the question, "Can I give you a hug?" This research was published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration.
If you are skeptical of the information presented in this article, remember the old saying, seeing is believing. Check out the DVD. I found it in my local library. You can also read about N'kisi and his accomplishments in Mira Tweti's enlightening and entertaining new book, Of Parrots and People.
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