According to Harry Potter wiki

Dumbledore cared for his Phoenix Fawkes after each of his rebirths, and in return he (Fawkes) was very faithful to the elderly wizard.

When told the bird had burst into flames Albus said to Harry:

"About time, too. He's been looking dreadful for days; I've been telling him to get a move on."

The legend says they die and are born anew. Do Phoenixes retain their memories when they rise from the ashes?

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    Of course it retains its memories, it knew who Dumbledore was. I wonder how long a Phoenix's memory lasts and how intelligent they are. A crow is said to have a memory of up to 5 years. – Gorchestopher H Sep 5 '12 at 15:41
  • @GorchestopherH A hand raised bird will always bond with its human. – Major Stackings Sep 5 '12 at 21:19
  • Exactly. If the phoenix retains its bond between incarnations, it's a strong indication that it's memories are retained. – Gorchestopher H Sep 6 '12 at 1:26

‘It’s a shame you had to see him on a Burning Day,’ said Dumbledore, seating himself behind his desk. ‘He’s really very handsome most of the time: wonderful red and gold plumage. Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers and they make highly faithful pets.’

Chamber of Secrets - page 155 - Bloomsbury - chapter 12, The Polyjuice Potion

Dictionary.com offers the following as definitions for faithful: steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.

As Gorchestopher H mentioned, Fawkes apparently knew who Dumbledore was each time he burned and regenerated. In the above passage I quoted from Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling put the emphasis on "faithful", not me. In order for Fawkes to exhibit characteristics like steadiness in allegiance or affection, loyalty, and constancy, I think Fawkes would have to retain his memory with each regeneration.

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    What's to say, though, that it doesn't have some sort of "first thing I see is Mother" hard-wiring? While I agree with you, why couldn't it be that each molting it just re-accepts Dumbledore as its parent? Admittedly, one would wonder why Dumbledore would be so calm having another person in the room, then... – rsegal Sep 6 '12 at 6:37
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    Slytherincess @rsegal , if you're right about the "first thing I see is Mother", that might explain why Fawkes came to the Chamber of Secrets to save Harry. Maybe Dumbledore planned the whole thing in advance, and what he really meant was "It is all part of my diabolical plan that you see him on a Burning Day, muhuhahaha". – NominSim Sep 6 '12 at 13:02
  • @NominSim: ah, nice theory. – b_jonas Sep 6 '12 at 13:34
  • He is known to be a chess-master bar none. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my tinfoil hat! – rsegal Sep 6 '12 at 14:53
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    @NominSim -- I just happened across this quote from JKR regarding Fawkes and thought you might be interested in it: "Something had to leave the school for good when Dumbledore died, and I decided that would be Fawkes. Dumbledore was a very great and irreplacable man, and the loss of Fawkes (and the fact that he was ‘non-transferable’!) expresses this symbolically." I think by "non-transferable" JKR means that Dumbledore is the only person who held ownership of Fawkes. Just an FYI! :) – Slytherincess Sep 9 '12 at 22:11

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