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Zoo To Introduce Famous Swearing Parrots To Larger Flock. What Could Go Wrong?

Fowl language indeed.

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Ben Taub

author

Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer

Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

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Swearing African grey

"What the *&#%! you looking at?"

Image credit: Andika77/Shutterstock.com

A group of potty-mouthed parrots living at a British zoo are to be sworn into a larger flock in an attempt to teach them some manners. The eight African greys have become a star attraction at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park for their tendency to turn the air blue, yet zookeepers have now seemingly had enough of their effing and jeffing.

The center adopted the first five of the profane psittacines back in 2020, yet quickly decided to remove the birds from public display once their wicked tongues started drawing attention. Named Eric, Tyson, Billy, Jade, and Elsie, the blaspheming birds were introduced to a flock of parrots with more quintessential British politeness, ultimately learning to blend in by toning down their incessant swearing, like an avian version of My Fair Lady.

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“When we came to move them, the language that came out of their carrying boxes was phenomenal, really bad,” Steve Nichols, the park’s chief executive, told CNN. “Not normal swear words, these were proper expletives,” he added. 

By the time the foul-mouthed five were placed back on display several months later, their language had improved somewhat although their love of swearing had not been fully eradicated. This prompted park officials to put up a sign warning visitors about the parrots’ vulgarity.

More recently, the park adopted a further three African greys - named Captain, Sheila, and Eric - with a similar skill for cussing. To prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, zookeepers have now decided to move the offensive octet to a larger flock of 100 birds in the hope that their swearing will be “diluted”.

Speaking to BBC News, Nichols said the explicit eight are unlikely to ever stop swearing entirely since "once it's in their vocabulary, it's usually there for good". However, as the parrots learn the vocabulary of the rest of the flock, they should start to "imitate other sounds as well", thus dedicating less of their time to obscenities.

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Recognizing the risks inherent in this approach, Nichols admits that things could also go the other way, with the eight parrots teaching their colorful language to the rest of the flock. If this happens, Nichols says “it’s going to turn into some adult aviary.”

In spite of this potential for things to backfire spectacularly, he insists that 100 cursing African greys wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing, since “you never tire of being told to eff off by a parrot. You can't help but laugh.”

Unsurprisingly, then, Nichols says that most of the potty language heard around the aviary comes from human mouths, as “visitors stand around the enclosure swearing, trying to get the parrots to copy them."


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natureNaturenatureanimals
  • tag
  • animals,

  • birds,

  • zoos,

  • parrots,

  • swearing,

  • African Grey Parrot

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