Bond, Alan B; Judy Diamond

People form enduring emotional bonds with other animal species, such as dogs, cats, and horses. For the most part, these are domesticated animals, with one notable exception: Many people form close and supportive relationships with parrots, even though these amusing and curious birds remain thoroughly wild creatures. What enables this unique group of wild animals to form social bonds with people, and what does this mean for their survival?

In Thinking Like a Parrot, Alan Bond and Judy Diamond look beyond much of the standard work on captive parrots to the mischievous, inquisitive, and astonishingly vocal parrots of the wild. Focusing on the psychology and ecology of wild parrots, Bond and Diamond document their distinctive social behaviour, sophisticated cognition, and extraordinary vocal abilities. Also included are short vignettes – field notes of the natural history and behaviour of both rare and widely distributed species, from the neotropical crimson-fronted parakeet to New Zealand’s flightless, ground-dwelling kākāpō. This composite approach makes clear that the behaviour of captive parrots is grounded in the birds’ wild ecology and evolution, revealing that parrots’ ability to bond with people is an evolutionary accident, a byproduct of the intense sociality and flexible behaviour that characterize their lives.

Despite their adaptability and intelligence, however, nearly all large parrot species are rare, threatened, or endangered. To successfully manage and restore these wild populations, Bond and Diamond argue, we must develop a fuller understanding of their biology, of the complex set of ecological and behavioural traits that has led to their vulnerability. Spanning the global distribution of parrot species, Thinking Like a Parrot is rich with surprising insights into parrot intelligence, flexibility, and – even in the face of threats – resilience.

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University of Chicago Press, June 2019.  296 pages, hardcover, 20 plates with colour photos, 35 black and white photos, 6 black and white illustrations