I'm obsessed with Apollo, a three-year-old African Grey parrot who lives in St Petersburg, Florida with his humans, Dalton Mason and Victoria Lacey, who have been homeschooling him since he was eight months old. The videos that Dalton and Tori post on social media demonstrate Apollo's learning progress—he knows a range of colors, shapes, materials, and more. And on top of being smart, he also talks to his humans with such a charming voice!
On their YouTube channel, Apollo's humans explain:
Follow us as we raise our African Grey, Apollo, like he's our own child. He receives a preschool-level homeschooling education from his "parents," Dalton and Tori. Apollo studies and plays alongside his flockmates, Soleil and Ophelia the caiques. Our goal is to make Apollo the smartest animal ever. Much of our inspiration comes from Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her work with Alex. We hope that by posting our progress, others can see what parrots are capable of. We also want to use the online community to share and exchange ideas on animal intelligence.
This article, originally published by Fox News, provides more information:
Working with Apollo and testing his boundaries is not a light-hearted hobby for Mason and Lacey. It's a serious and even scholarly passion.
"We use the 'model/rival' program of training," said Mason.
"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, "Occasionally we'll use operant conditioning, which is more common for training pets."
Operant conditioning — offering a good outcome in response to a desired behavior — is usually attributed to psychologist B.F. Skinner, according to SimplyPsychology.org.
Apollo can often be seen on social media receiving the reward of a pistachio when he correctly performs a task.
"As a more passive means of training," noted Mason, "we talk with him as if he were a member of the household, [almost] as if he were our young son."
Explaining that the abilities of this species are "practically unknown," Mason said the couple treats Apollo "much 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 one can assume they are about as intelligent."