Linden gathers anecdotes from zoo keepers, pet owners, game preserve employees, and primate researchers to suggest the range and depth of animals' ability to plan, reason, invent and employ tools, and empathize or form relationships with unfamiliar and even traditionally hostile species.
Some of the tales are highly amusing, terribly moving, or almost unbelievable. In the first category is the parrot's lament of the title, in which a female African grey bemoaned the fate of a male she did not like when her owner pulled a Cornish game hen out of the oven, and then grieved again when the owner showed her the male was still alive. As an example of the second, I think of the male orca who appeared to be monitoring his mate's pregnancy by placing his head against her tummy, and then battered his head against the edge of their Marineland pool in frustration shortly before she miscarried. Or the great ape that rescued a human infant that fell into its zoo enclosure.
Unbelievable are the many stories of orangutan ingenuity in escaping their zoo cages and yards, or the friendship between the wild turkey and the retired race horse.
I wanted to like this book more than I ended up doing. The issue of animal intelligence is an important and fascinating one, but I wish Linden had delved deeper into the philosophical and scientific implications. The anecdotes fly by with very little discussion. This approach was done better (and with remarkably little overlap in stories) a few years back by Susan McCarthy and Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson in _When Elephants Weep: the emotional lives of animals_; granted, their subject was more specifically emotions rather than cognition, but I found it a more thoughtful book.
In addition, though _The Parrot's Lament_ is competently written, I found its phrasing a little inelegant at times. I recorded it aloud for a broadcast service for the blind and elderly shut-ins ("Golden Hours" at KOPB in Portland, Oregon), and found myself stumbling over the verbiage more often than usual.