This article appeared in the February 04, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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What African grey parrots and NFL players have in common

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Kansas City Chiefs' Derrick Nnadi celebrates after winning the Super Bowl, Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami. The defensive lineman celebrated the Super Bowl victory by offering to pay the fees for 91 dogs waiting to be adopted at a local shelter.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

What do football players and African grey parrots have in common?

Altruism.

Let me explain. Researchers found that African grey parrots will voluntarily help another grey. In an experiment, the parrots could exchange tokens for nuts. If a neighboring parrot didn’t have a token, an African grey would see the need and voluntarily share its own token, says the study published in Current Biology last month. This happened even among parrots who were “strangers” to each other. 

It’s the first time scientists have recorded voluntary generosity by an avian species. Other creatures have also challenged the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” view of nature as selfish. As my Monitor colleague has reported, Matabele ants have a tender side, caring for the wounds of other ants. In recent years, scientists have found cooperative and selfless instincts in mammals from rats to dolphins.

Many NFL players, who participate in one of the most violent and Darwinian of sports, are also models of compassion. Take Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner for his community generosity. And there’s Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi. After his team won the Super Bowl Sunday, Mr. Nnadi said he would pay the fees for all 91 dogs (about $150 each) waiting to be adopted at a local shelter. Adoptions doubled overnight. 

Birds of a feather: Football players and African grey parrots.

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This article appeared in the February 04, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/04 edition