Baby Budgie: Day 06 - Self Recognition "Those who see"


I was sitting at my desk typing when Danny started screeching. It's kinda like a budgies version of 'crying' or the sound they make when they are afraid or angry or very annoyed. If you try to grab one or are holding it when it does want to be it goes "Waara  wraaaa weraaaaaa ch ch ch chhhh chh chhshh" and is kinda squeaky too. She has only done it a couple times so far and they do it less as they get older unless they get really angry. It's similar to how children cry a lot when they are little and then less and less as they get older.  It's just like a dog crying or a cat meowing when it's getting a bath.

It surprised me but at the same time it wasn't quite a "I'm hurt" cry either. It was like "i'm a little freaked out."  - huh? Why is she doing that? I look over and she had seen a mirror for the first time! I put up some paper over an area of my desk like a barrier so she wouldn't go behind my tv or fall off. The paper I used had a reflective surface on one side. So she must have walked by it and saw herself and got scared and started screaming - but like I said the scream was more of a "hey Hey you scared me stop it" and not a "I'm really hurt help."

By the time I could start recording she had already moved on from the 'scared' to the super curious stage.


It's interesting to note that the quality of the reflective surface makes a big difference in that she didn't or hasn't' noticed her reflection in her cage's plastic (to the left) but she did in this mirrored paper. You can see the reflection in the red cage plastic clearly in this gif but I don't think you can see it from her perspective.


At first she was laying there just kinda winking at herself so I moved the the mirror a little and she started to get up and then started to realize that the reflection was another "bird" so she wanted to go over to it - but of course she kept blocking her own attempts. A couple times she got angry and went to 'bite' at it - which then made her even more mad because that meant the 'other' bird was trying to 'bite' her too. Conversely when she was curious and acted like she wanted to go over to it - it did the same back. Then she made some cute little budgie babbling sounds that I haven't heard before.  Which lets us reflect on what it must be like to see your reflection for the very first time.





Its a very common test of an animals level of intelligence if they are able to look in a mirror and realize that it's themselves and not another animal looking back. If you put a mirror up to a monkey it will act like it's another monkey. If you put a mirror up to an ape or a dolphin or an elephant( or a parrot?) - they will realize it's actually a reflection of themselves. How can you tell if they can tell? One way is to put something on their face like a marker or something and if they then see their own face they will see a mark on it and then touch their own face in real life. So that means they have correlated that the image that they are seeing is really them. Usually it's pretty obvious when something recognizes itself in a mirror because of how they 'play' with it. The animals that know it's them will start to make faces and look in their mouth - the animals that don't will try to get behind the mirror or act as if it's another animal and not themselves. 

My question is coincidentally related  to one of my favorite Leonardo da Vinci quotes: 

"There are three classes of people: Those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who do not see." 

In this context you could use it to describe those capable of self recognition in a mirror. Another thing to consider is that an animal's (and humans) age is a factor. A baby might not recognize itself in a mirror but as it gets older and 'wiser' it goes through a level of development that enables it to finally recognize itself. If you imagine that an animal probably goes through the same stage and then you realize that there is a brief period from when they first see their first mirror to when they finally 'realize' its 'them" - that 'brief period' of recognition could be longer for some than others.  What this means is that it's possible for some animals/ people to not instantly recognize their reflections or the concept at first - but could eventually and independently. It could also mean that there are those who are capable of comprehending the concept but would require someone to "show" them. There are others that no matter what cannot comprehend the concept at all. They would always think that the image in a mirror is "Another animal" and not themselves. You can see where the quote from Leonardo fits perfectly in this context and it could very well be exactly what he is referring to. 


Since Danny is still very young, probably just a toddler in terms of human development I'm not sure that even if budgies are capable of self recognition in a mirror that she would be capable of it yet.  My question is if budgies are typically not capable of realizing it independently could they still be if I taught her? If I made an extra and very deliberate and incessant effort to teach her this concept - could she? If they can learn hundrds of words could I teach her the sentence -"This mirror shows Danny. That is you, That is Danny." So that even if she didn't understand right away after a few weeks/ months - eventually she would realize that it's her in the mirror?

In this video I would say Mitso realizes it's not another budgie - or at least that it's the same budgie every time. Does he know that it's himself? Is it something that he could come to realize if you showed him? 


Is this self recognition a quality that either a species has or doesn't have or is it something that almost anything could comprehend if it had the right conditions? 

Of course I'm going to be best testing this out with Danny but I was waiting till she was a little older to introduce her to a mirror. They can actually form bonds with mirrors that can be distracting. I didn't even realize I used the mirrored paper or that she would have been able to see it. The fact that she didn't cry out for it or act how she would if she saw another bird in the room makes me think she realized it was something not quite real. She reacts more to the shadow of a crow flying by the window than she did to her own reflection in terms of "Hi!!!! I want to meet you" She didn't act how I would expect her to if she thought it really was another budgie in the room. So what did she think that it was?

Whenever i'm at a pet store that has birds I'll always take a picture of them and then show them afterwards. They can definitely recognize it's another bird. Then I'll try a video and they always respond to it. Sometimes it freaks them out and they start screaming. Sometimes they try to lick the screen - but they always realize that it's a "bird" or at least an "image of a bird." If you show a budgie a video of other budgies on youtube they know that it's of a budgie - both visually and audibly. I was showing Danny a talking African Grey and she tried to go up to the screen and jump in. I'm purposely not showing her videos of other budgies so she will "forget" that she is one haha

 I think the ability to recognize a mirror as being their own reflection is one step above realizing that something on a screen is 'not real.' Most animals, even dogs, realize that images on a tv screen are of things - but that they are different than "reality." I think that even in the last couple days of watching me in front of a screen Danny has an understanding that things on it are not "Behind it literally" similar to how we understand that images on a tv are ON it and that it's not a "Window" or the things are through it. I've put my cell phone up to her and she licks at the surface of the cell phone and seems to be aware that it's a single plane rather than something she could go through. Windows/ glass are something they can learn are there or not. My old budgies had a cage with plexi glass windows as it's walls instead of bars and they knew it wasn't just "air" - but it's still something that has to be learned. There are dogs and cats (and people) that will walk right into a glass door. 




These dogs even know to check if the glass slider is open or not! So you see that it's a level of cognition to recognize "Clear" "Reflective" and "Pictures vs Reality" and "Mirror recognition." Animals even know to look 'behind' a mirror or image and once they do they seem to be able to comprehend that it doesn't exist in the same way as other images do. 

I started to think about something else a little deeper. I think that it's possible for something/ someone to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror and still lack that "self recognition" concept. I also think it's possible for something or someone to lack the ability to realize an actual mirror is themselves but is still possesses that "self recognition" conceptually. Similar to how you could program a computer to recognize itself in a mirror but it may still lack a deeper conception of the idea where as an animal may not be able to but does have that deeper conception. 

So a level of awareness - both "self awareness" and higher levels of consciousness seems to be both innate, self taught, and something that has to be learned. I mean think about if there were no mirrors and no one ever saw a reflection before? They wouldn't have an idea about what their face actually appeared as- and their image of themselves would be quite different. That same idea is definitely compounded with  portraits - both painted- and then with cameras and especially video. The thing with mirrors is that we always see them from the same perspective and we are always looking back directly at ourselves. They are like "live selfies" meaning that we are limited to seeing them by our personal perspectives.  It takes multiple mirrors to see ourselves from other perspectives such as the back of our head or our profile - or when we are not looking into our own eyes. So imagine what it was like to for people to invent photography and see themselves for the first time - from outside of their own perspective. IT would be on par with seeing your own reflection in a mirror for the first time. 












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