Einstein: the African Grey Parrot from Knoxville Zoo That Gave a TED Talk

Parrots are known for having better cognitive and vocal abilities than most of other birds. Some of them even go as far as to develop their own vocabulary, like this African grey parrot. The word birdbrained would perhaps require redefining if used in reference to this special parrot aptly-named Einstein. She loves to talk a lot and reply on cue. She also can imitate a wide range of sounds. Read on to know more about Einstein’s vocal adventures.

Einstein, the African grey parrot, is from Knoxville Zoo in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is a part of an outreach program to educate the visitors about the natural world. She was donated to the zoo in 1992. 

Einstein, the Parrot
Image Source: tnvacation

African Greys are known for their advanced cognitive abilities to talk and to imitate the sounds they listen to, though only very few of them are capable of learning as many as Einstein does or be able to make sounds on cue. It takes about a week and a half to train Einstein to make a sound on cue. Stephanie White, her trainer uses a reward of sunflower seeds every time Einstein gets a word or sound right. Einstein can also give a rendition of an evil villain laugh and a Santa Claus laugh.

Einstein has a vocabulary of 200 words and sounds, and 70 on cue. She has even given a TED talk in February 2006 and can even sing “Happy Birthday”. 

Einstein, the African Grey Parrot at Knoxville
Image Source: africangreyparrot

Einstein shot to fame after her spectacular performance in a game show known as Pet Star on Animal Planet. When someone says hi, she would reply “Hey, sweetheart”, when asked if she thinks she is famous she would reply “Superstar” or when asked what she would say to a good-looking man then reply would be “Hey, baby,”. She can also mimic the sounds of a spaceship or water dripping from a faucet. Sometimes, she picks up sounds on her own even though they are not part of her training. Since sunflowers are her favorite seeds, when asked what she would do if she got peanuts, she would exclaim “Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god!”

Since she lives at the zoo, Einstein knows a lot of animal sounds and can make the sounds of chimpanzee, tiger, rooster, cat, dog, penguin, and pig on cue. 

Einstein Giving TED Talk
Image Source: ted

According to her trainer White, Einstein loves to mimic and babble. When she hears a sound she likes she starts repeating it over and over. The trainers use this to train her to make that sound on cue. She also learned to say “Yee-haw!” with Tennessee as the cue word. Many visitors who watch her speak are often astonished by her abilities and would say that the trainers are just ventriloquists.

Here is Einstein, giving her TED Talk with her trainer Stephanie White…

Apart from the show on Animal Planet, Einstein also participates in the zoo’s Bird Show and is very popular among children of local schools where her trainers take her to perform. She has appeared on shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and participates in show-and-tell as well.
[sources: ted.com, cbsnews]

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