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The Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in eastern England is home to a variety of interesting and unusual creatures, but perhaps none are as colorful as their African grey parrots, in a manner of speaking.
In 2020, the park decided to separate five of its parrots from the rest of the group because of their tendency to swear. The birds had become notorious for unleashing a stream of foul expletives at each other and at the humans they encountered.
Though park visitors mostly seemed to find the bad language entertaining, the staff were concerned about the effect on young visitors. Thus, Eric, Jade, Elsie, Tyson, and Billy were temporarily removed from public view and separated in an effort to limit their exposure to each other’s frequent cursing.
Yet the park is now taking a different approach. The five original miscreants, along with three recently donated birds that also swear regularly, have now been integrated into a much larger parrot population. The hope is that the family-friendly vocabulary (and innocuous noises mimicking microwaves and reversing vehicles) of the 92 non-swearing parrots will rub off on the eight potty mouths.
The strategy is somewhat risky, though, as it’s possible that the entire flock could learn the swear words and use them regularly in front of the public. For now, the park has put up signs to alert visitors about the potential barrage of cursing they might encounter from the birds.
What did that parrot just say?
- Expletives are relatively easy for parrots to mimic, as they are often spoken on their own in a clear, predictable tone.
- Of the eight potty-mouthed parrots, six speak with a male voice, while two speak with a female voice, based on the voices of the former owners they learned to mimic.
- The intelligence of African grey parrots is exceptional, with some research indicating that they have certain cognitive abilities akin to those of a five-year-old child.
- Referring to the three newest acquisitions, Lincolnshire Wildlife Park chief executive Steve Nichols told CNN that “the language that came out of their carrying boxes was phenomenal, really bad. Not normal swear words, these were proper expletives.”