Meet a feathered man who lights up the internet with his verbal skills and intelligence: Apollo, an African gray parrot.
Apollo lives with his humans, Dalton Mason and Victoria Lacey, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
He is 2 and a half years old and has feathered family members as well as humans; Mason and Lacey also own two white-bellied caiques named Soleil and Ophelia, the couple told Fox News Digital via email.
The internet wants more Apollo, it seems: Instagram account apolloandfrens showcases Apollo’s talents and has some 142,000 followers, while a TikTok account for Apollo’s incredible feats of intelligence, ApolloandFrens , currently has nearly 940,000 subscribers.
In many of their videos shared on social media, Mason can be seen asking Apollo to identify objects or perform other tasks and is enthusiastic when Apollo succeeds.
And when he doesn’t, the bird always gets a second chance.
Apollo can distinguish between metal and glass – pronouncing each word clearly – and he also knows colors, among other skills.
“We’ve had him since he was eight months old,” Mason told Fox News Digital.
Working with Apollo and testing his limits is no light pastime for Mason and Lacey. It is a serious and even scholarly passion.
“We use the ‘model/rival’ training program,” Mason said.
“It was originally published by German ethologist Dietmar Todt, but was popularized by Dr. Irene Pepperberg [a scientist noted for her work in field of animal cognition] through her work with Alex, her African Grey.
Mason also said, “From time to time we will use operant conditioning, which is more common for training companion animals.”
Operant conditioning—providing a good result in response to a desired behavior—is generally attributed to psychologist BF Skinner, according to SimplyPsychology.org.
Apollo can often be seen on social media receiving the reward of a pistachio when performing a task correctly.
“As a more passive means of training,” Mason noted, “we talk to him as if he were a member of the house, [almost] as if he were our young son.
Explaining that this species’ abilities are “virtually unknown”, Mason said the pair treat Apollo “a bit like a child” to see “how he compares cognitively”.
He added: “These parrots are equal in size to crows, have a similar diet and a complex social structure – so it can be assumed that they are about as intelligent.”
“Parrots, however, are much better at replicating human speech due to their anatomy,” he noted.
Parrots speak by “altering the air flowing over the syrinx to make sounds,” says Exotic Direct, an exotic pet insurance company that also shares facts about exotics on its website.
“The syrinx is located where the trachea divides into the lungs,” the site notes.
The site also notes that “parrots, especially African grays and members of the Amazon family, are particularly good at mimicking human words and sounds.”
“Apollo is ‘bonded’ with us, although he prefers Dalton,” Lacey said.
“He is also very close to our other parrots and many of our friends and family.”
Parrots are not domesticated, unlike dogs and cats, Mason said, “although they naturally live in large flocks with a complex social hierarchy and communication system.”
“In practice, they don’t ‘adapt’ to human social structures or bonding as well as dogs do,” he said.
“They are much more social than cats, which, as solitary animals, lack the social programming at the genetic level.”
New York Post