Meet a feathered fellow who lights up the internet with his verbal skills and intelligence: Apollo, an African gray parrot.
Apollo resides in St. Petersburg, Florida with his humans Dalton Mason and Victoria Lacey.
He is two and a half years old and has feathered family members in addition to human ones; Mason and Lacey also own two white-bellied caiques named Soleil and Ophelia, Lacey told Fox News Digital via email.
The internet seems to want more from Apollo: Instagram account apolloandfrens showcases Apollo’s talents and has around 142,000 followers, while a TikTok account for Apollo’s incredible feats of intelligence, ApolloandFrens, currently has almost 940,000 followers.
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In many of her videos shared on social media, Mason can be seen asking Apollo to identify objects or perform other tasks and is thrilled when Apollo gets them right.
And if he doesn’t, the bird always gets a second chance.
Apollo can tell the difference between metal and glass – he pronounces every word clearly – and he knows colors, among other abilities.
“We’ve had him since he was eight months old,” Lacey told Fox News Digital via email.
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Working with Apollo and testing its limits is no easy hobby for Mason and Lacey. It is a serious and even scientific passion.
“We use the ‘model/rival’ training program,” Lacey said.
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“It was originally published by the German ethologist Dietmar Todt, but by Dr. Irene Pepperberg popularized [a scientist noted for her work in field of animal cognition] through her work with Alex, her African grey.”
Lacey also said, “Occasionally we use operant conditioning, which is more common in pet training.”
Operant conditioning — which provides a good outcome in response to a desired behavior — is usually credited to psychologist BF Skinner, according to SimplyPsychology.org.
Apollo can often be seen on social media receiving a pistachio as a reward for completing a task correctly.
“Because of their anatomy, parrots are much better at mimicking human speech.”
“As a more passive training tool,” Lacey observed, “we talk to him as if he were a member of the household and act as if he were our young son.”
Lacey explained that the species’ abilities are “virtually unknown” and said they treat Apollo “like a kid” to see “how he compares cognitively.”
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She added, “These parrots are the same size as crows, have a similar diet and a complex social structure – so you can expect them to be about as intelligent.”
“However, parrots are much better at mimicking human speech because of their anatomy,” she noted.
Parrots talk by “modifying the air that passes over the syrinx to create sounds,” explains Exotic Direct, an exotic pet insurance company that also publishes exotic pet facts on its website.
“The syrinx is where the trachea divides into the lungs,” the website notes.
The website also notes, “Parrots, especially gray parrots and members of the Amazon family, are particularly good at mimicking human words and sounds.”
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“Apollo is ‘bonded’ to us, although he prefers Dalton,” Lacey said.
“He’s also very close to our other parrots and many of our friends and family.”
Parrots, unlike dogs and cats, are undomesticated, Lacey also said, “although by nature they live in large flocks with a complex social hierarchy and communication system.”
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“In practice, they don’t fit into human social structures or bonds as well as dogs,” Lacey said.
“They are far more social than cats, which as individual animals lack social programming at the genetic level.”