Home » Do Parrots Have A Good Memory? (Short Term vs. Long Term)
how good is a parrot's memory?

Do Parrots Have A Good Memory? (Short Term vs. Long Term)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots are intelligent birds with an impressive capacity for learning. PNAS explains that they have the same number of neurons as primates, which is reflected in their short- and long-term memory spans.

Experiments have revealed that all parrot species have short-term memory. Blue-throated macaws could repeat and recall their actions, including new ones, for up to 15 seconds.

If a parrot finds something enjoyable or stands to benefit from the knowledge, it’ll be memorized and stored indefinitely. A parrot’s long-term memory can sometimes last a lifetime.

Parrots memorize food and water resources, dangers/threats, pair-bonded birds, human caregivers (and abusers), skills/tricks, and fun words/sounds. Parrots seldom forget things that are relevant to them.

Parrots Have A Good Memory

Parrots have short-term memories but retain information indefinitely when necessary for their survival. To understand the function of memory, we must understand the different types.

According to Progressive Brain Research, the types of memory in birds include:

Short-term memory:Stores information essential to immediate survival and activity.
Working memory:Used to manipulate information in short-term memory and complete tasks.
Long-term memory:Used to store vital recollections about surroundings and terrain.

Short-Term Memory

Parrots frequently show examples of short-term memory. For example, if you demonstrate a game to a parrot, like dunking a small basketball in a desktop hoop, it’ll learn how to play it.

Another example is their understanding of shapes. The Journal of Vision found that parrots could distinguish shapes when a human confirms their name and distinct outline.

do parrots have short term memory?

Long-Term Memory

According to Biology Letters, a small wild bird retains memories of food resources for at least 2 years. Parrots can recollect people, events, and speech.

How long is a parrot’s memory? Perhaps the best insight into this was provided by Alex, the African gray parrot who is the subject of the book Alex & Me by Dr. Irene Pepperberg.

Alex and Dr. Pepperberg lived together for 30 years, and Alex was communicative and recognized his owner until his death. This suggests that a parrot is unlikely to lose its memory.

One explanation is the absence of glycogen synthase kinase 3 genes in birds. This gene is found in mammals and humans and leads to inflammation connected to Alzheimer’s disease.

Parrots lack the GSK3 gene, so they’re not affected by memory loss in the same way as humans. If the parrot doesn’t recall something, it’s not deemed necessary enough to memorize.

Parrot Species with The Best Memory

The African gray is widely considered the smartest parrot species.

A study in Nature adds weight to this belief, suggesting that African grays have a memory that compares favorably to some Harvard University undergraduates.

The study involved hiding a colored pompom under a series of identical cups and asking the parrot and human participants to recall which cup housed the pompom.

The parrot defeated the children and frequently outperformed the adults. This suggests that an African gray has the best memory of all psittacine birds when given a visual learning cue to memorize.

Parrots also have a remarkable ability to memorize speech patterns.

What Parrots Remember

A parrot can memorize a home’s layout and learn where it’s safe and which areas should be avoided.

Parrots also memorize where to find food and water sources. This is a holdover from their wild instincts, as birds observe terrain from a safe distance and learn where to find sustenance with little danger.

You may also find that a parrot stashes food. As per the Canadian Journal of Psychology, wild birds create food caches and understand which have been raided by other animals.

A parrot will remember words and songs it hears, the faces and scents of human owners and visitors to your home, and other birds’ friendly or hostile behavior.

Parrots Remembering Words

Parrots remember words they hear others use if they find them fun to say or invoke a response.

Avoid language and cuss words you don’t want the parrot to repeat in polite company. The BBC reported how a group of swearing African grays at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park had to be removed from public view.

This raises the question of how parrots remember words. The answer is mimicry. When a parrot hears interesting words or sounds, it’ll seek to imitate them.

This could be a word in any language (English, Spanish, etc.), a song, or a noise from a device, like a whistling kettle or doorbell. Parrots soon realize that people take action when a microwave beeps.

If a parrot finds the sound pleasurable or it provokes a response, it’ll repeat it. Parrots don’t understand the meaning of their language but pay close attention if the word or sound provokes a reaction.

To teach a parrot new words, repeat them regularly in their company. If the parrot uses that word or phrase, offer praise, petting, or a treat as encouragement.

how long is a parrots memory?

Parrots Remembering Other Birds

Wild parrots forge complex bonds with same-species birds, potentially mating for life as long as reproduction remains viable.

Captive parrots kept in pairs and groups will also bond with each other, showing signs of grief and loneliness when separated.

Parrots can remember friendly and hostile interactions with other birds and adjust their behavior. Like all aspects of parrot memory, this is a survival mechanism.

Parrots Remembering Humans

Parrots forge long-lasting relationships with humans that meet their daily care needs. According to Animal Cognition, pigeons can distinguish human faces. This suggests that parrots can as well.

As parrots have long-term memory, they’ll recall human abuse and mistreatment. Proceedings of the Association of Avian Veterinarians stated that captive parrots experience PTSD.

Parrots grow excited when a favorite human enters a room. Also, parrots shy away from certain humans, showing signs of fear upon sight. This can happen if a person looks like a former aggressor.

Keep this in mind if you’re considering rehoming a pet parrot. Do parrots remember their old owners? A pet parrot will instantly recall you on sight.

A popular idiom is that elephants never forget, which also applies to parrots. Always assume that a parrot will remember words/sounds, territory, hostility, and people.

Parrots are routine-driven birds who dislike change and new things. They’ll soon tell you if you change their food or feeding schedule. This alone illustrates the efficacy of a parrot’s memory.