Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Oh, no! Alex the African Grey Parrot has died.

I met and ate dinner a couple of times with Irene Pepperberg at ornithological meetings. What a warm, intelligent, splendid woman she is. Her seminal research into avian intelligence and communication with her African Grey Parrot Alex is beyond compare.

I was heartbroken to read on her website today that Alex was found dead in his cage Friday, September 7. What a loss to science, and what a devastating loss to Dr. Pepperberg, personally as well as professionally. The official announcement will be made tomorrow after the cause of death is discovered.

Ellen Paul, Executive Director of the Ornithological Council, writes:

The Board of Directors extends its deepest sympathies to Irene Pepperberg on the sudden and tragic loss of her famous, brilliant research companion and beloved friend, Alex, who died suddenly at the age of 31 on 7 September 2007. Alex came into the life of Dr. Pepperberg, a longtime OC Board Member representing the Cooper Ornithological Society, from a pet shop in 1977 and quickly took over her life by teaching her all he knew about cognition and communication. Alex achieved fame on the little screen by upstaging Alan Alda in an episode of Scientific American Frontiers on PBS. The front page of the New York Times Science Times featured Alex in 1999. That same year, Dr. Pepperberg published The Alex Studies, a comprehensive review of her decades of learning about learning from Alex. Many other television appearances and newspaper articles followed. What Alex taught Dr. Pepperberg about cognition and communication has been applied to therapies to help children with learning disabilities.

Dr. Pepperberg continues her work with Alex's two avian companions, Griffin and Wart.

To help support this research, please consider making a donation in Alex's memory to

The Alex Foundation
c/o Dr. Irene Pepperberg
Department of Psychology/MS-062
415 South Street
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02454