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.
- Parrots May Be As Smart as Chimps and Gorillas
About two years ago, I fell in love. It was a Somewhere in Time sort of moment. I was sipping coffee and watching Good Morning America--nothing out of the ordinary. But on this particular morning, Diane...
- Real Animals That Really Talk: Elephants
We all know that parrots and certain other birds can learn to talk. And most of us are aware that the Great Apes, i.e., chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, can be taught to communicate in American sign...
i scribble (author) on September 23, 2013:
That is too precious about your 'talking' dog and the closeness of your dog and cat. I tried to teach my dog to say Mama, and what he learned was to move his mouth like imitating human speech. Gotta love 'em!
d.william from Somewhere in the south on September 22, 2013:
Great article. I have always believed that animals were way smarter than people give them credit for.
I have a dog that 'talks' to the cat. He has about 6 different sounds that he uses when trying to communicate with that cat. The cat responds by cuddling up to the dog and licking his head.
If the dog sees me looking at him while he is 'talking' to the cat, he stops and puts his head down, like he thinks i am going to scold him. That always makes me laugh.
Great video as well.
Aya Katz from The Ozarks on September 14, 2012:
Iscribble, this is quite interesting information about N'kisi. I will want to follow up by watching the video and reading the article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, if possible. The intuitive approach to teaching sounds different from the methods use by Irene Pepperberg with Alex.
i scribble (author) on September 04, 2012:
Thanks for reading and commenting. No, I'm not familiar with the Source Field Investigations. If it relates to this subject, I'll try to check it out. I've heard of other psychic abilities in animals too, like dogs who run to the door 10 minutes before the car pulls into the drive.
Thanks for your interest. The Jane Goodall/AP documentary was made a few years ago, maybe 2008 or even a little earlier. Best I can remember, Dr. Goodall was surprised to learn that birds (parrots) can have language communication abilities that rival those of the great apes. Look for the program on DVD at your local library. More impressive than just reading about it!
Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on September 04, 2012:
I've seen various programs with Alex on so I was interested to read about his successor in the talking parrot world. What did Jane Goodall make of him? I had no idea she'd presented programs for Animal Planet.
somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 03, 2012:
Have you read The Source Field Investigations by David Wilcock?
Why wouldn't you simply put the link to the YT video in the sentence?
I mean the articles isn't very long it is not as if, some one couldn't finish the article and go back to the sentence about the YT video, hmmm, personal preference?
Many animals are psychic however they don't have huge vocabularies.
This is a cool article, thanx for sharing!