How a Wildlife Park is Dealing with Its Foul-Mouthed Parrots

A group of eight African grey parrots at a wildlife park in Lincolnshire have become notorious for their rude and profane language. The park’s staff are trying a new strategy to curb their swearing habit by introducing them to a larger flock of parrots.

The Parrots That Swear Like Sailors

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Park is home to more than 2,000 parrots of various species, but none of them are as infamous as the eight African greys that have a penchant for swearing. The parrots, named Billy, Tyson, Eric, Jade, Elsie, Captain, Sheila and another Eric, have been known to hurl obscenities at visitors and staff alike, often causing laughter and embarrassment.

The park’s chief executive, Steve Nichols, said the parrots picked up their bad language from their previous owners, who either donated or rehomed them due to various reasons. He said the parrots were placed in quarantine together when they arrived at the park, which gave them the opportunity to teach each other more swear words.

“They are very intelligent and social birds, and they learn from each other,” he said. “They also have a sense of humour and like to get a reaction from people.”

The Parrots That Went Viral

The swearing parrots first made headlines in 2020, when five of them were removed from public display after they started to offend some visitors with their foul-mouthed antics. The park received a lot of media attention and inquiries from people who wanted to see or adopt the parrots.

Foul-Mouthed Parrots

Nichols said the parrots became the park’s star attraction, and a disclaimer notice was installed at their enclosure to warn those of a sensitive nature. He said the parrots also provided some humour and relief during the pandemic, when the world seemed very serious.

“You never tire of being told to eff off by a parrot,” he said. “You can’t help but laugh. Of course, visitors stand around the enclosure swearing, trying to get the parrots to copy them.”

The Parrots That Face a New Challenge

However, the swearing parrots soon gained three more companions, who also started to squawk expletives. Nichols said he decided to try a different approach to tackle the problem, by introducing the eight parrots to the rest of the flock in a separate aviary.

He said he hoped the parrots would copy more appropriate vocabulary and noises from the other birds, and that the swearing would be diluted by the general noise of the flock. He said he was also concerned about the welfare of the parrots, who need to be with other parrots to be happy.

“Parrots are flock creatures. They need to be with other parrots. The bigger the flock, the happier they are,” he said. “Even though they swear, the welfare of the birds has to come first.”

However, he admitted that there was a risk that the swearing parrots could corrupt the entire flock, and that he could end up with 100 swearing parrots on his hands.

“Only time will tell,” he said. “Ultimately, I think the swearing will be reduced, but I doubt they will completely stop swearing. Once it’s in their vocabulary, it’s usually there for good.”

He said he also expected the parrots to imitate other sounds, such as the beeping sound of a reversing lorry, which some of the birds already make.

“We have about 30 birds who make that sound. Hopefully, the rest will pick up on that and there will be less swearing,” he said.

The Parrots That Are Not Alone

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Park is not the only place where parrots have caused a stir with their language skills. In 2016, a parrot named Bud became a key witness in a murder trial in Michigan, after he repeated the words “don’t shoot” in the victim’s voice. In 2017, a parrot named Rocco made online purchases using his owner’s Alexa device, ordering items such as watermelons, ice cream and light bulbs. In 2020, a parrot named Chico became a sensation at the same park as the swearing parrots, after he was filmed singing Beyonce’s song “If I Were A Boy”.

Talking and swearing are not the only skills parrots can absorb. They can also mimic other animals, such as dogs, cats and chickens, as well as musical instruments, such as pianos, guitars and drums. They can also learn to count, identify colours and shapes, and solve puzzles.

Parrots are among the most intelligent and social animals in the world, and they have a lot to teach us about communication, cognition and emotion. They also have a lot of personality and charm, which makes them fascinating and entertaining companions.

But as the swearing parrots show, they can also be cheeky and naughty, and sometimes they need a bit of guidance and discipline. As Nichols said, “They are like children. They need boundaries and rules, but they also need love and attention.”

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