9 Birds Caught Using Some Very Naughty Language


If you’re going to teach Polly how to talk, you’d better watch what you say! Here are nine of the world’s most “fowl”-mouthed avians.

1. Pet Cockatoo Cusses Out Human Neighbors

When a couple breaks up, things can get ugly—but it’s not every day that a swearing cockatoo gets thrown into the mix. In 2012, Lynne Taylor of Warwick, Rhode Island was accused of teaching her pet bird, Willy, to scream expletives at her former husband, Craig Fontaine, and his new girlfriend, both of whom lived next door. One of these outbursts was filmed and shown to the local police department, where an officer claimed that he was able to hear Willy shouting “‘f*** off’ and ‘f****** whore’” in the footage. Taylor was subsequently ticketed for violating a regional noise ordinance, a charge that was eventually dropped.

2. Potty-Mouthed Parrot Teaches Feathered Friends How To Swear

To date, “Barney the Swearing Parrot” of Nuneaton, England has verbally assaulted a vicar, two law enforcement officials, a pair of old ladies, and even the mayor’s wife. “It was quite horrifying to find out that he was swearing,” says Geoff Grewcox, director of the Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, where the infamous blue and gold macaw currently resides. Barney’s also had a bad influence on some of Grewcox’s other birds, some of whom have actually begun imitating his vulgar vocabulary.

3. Mr. T Told to Watch His Mouth


This is one bird that had to kick a very bad habit. Tropical Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama specializes in producing educational programs about exotic critters for nearby schools and universities. When a green-winged macaw named Mr. T was given to the organization, animal trainer Steve Rowlands quickly realized that the bird’s dialect needed a bit of cleansing before the staff could safely display him in public. “[He’s] picked up some interesting phrases and words which are not appropriate for some venues we go to,” Rowland explained. “Parrots like Mr. T can live to 90-years-old so he’s still only a youngster at [age seven]… I’m sure he’ll outgrow this rebellious stage soon.”

4. Adopted Cockatoo Swears at New Owner in Viral YouTube Video

In 2011, a YouTuber by the name of Furman Campbell posted this hilarious clip in which he gets into a highly NSFW argument with Baby, his newly-acquired fowl. Since then, their entertaining exchange has drawn over one million views.

5. Bird Uses Taiwanese Profanity


Pika the African Grey parrot is knows quite a lot of words. Unfortunately, many shouldn’t be repeated. According to the Taipei Times, he lives at a food stand in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung province and has begun “hurling insults and discouragement” at its customers, along with a slew of regional obscenities. Despite this, the winged detractor has become a beloved figure within his community.

6. Gutter-Mouthed Lory Seeks New Home

Finding a family can be difficult for any abandoned animal, especially one that curses like a sailor. Such is the burden of Beaky, a lory whose lingo has raised a few eyebrows over the years. “He knows some words that possibly are for adults only,” says Sally Jones of the Leybourne Animal Centre. Taking this information into account, in 2012, the British Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals began advertising that Beaky was in need of a good home but warned that “new owners shouldn’t mind bad language as he comes out with some rude words.” 

7. Mynah Bird Gets Kicked Out of Aviary for Insulting Tourists


When an impressionable avian at China’s Jiufeng Forest Zoo picked up a few expletives and started re-using them in front of startled visitors, officials decided it was time to put the critter in rehab. The offending Mynah bird has since been forced to listen to tapes containing “polite words” in a separate enclosure until its demeanor improves.

8. Parrot Discovers The Wonderful World of Interjections

It turns out that kids aren’t the only ones R-rated films can negatively affect. The owner of this bawdry macaw claims that he learned to shout “What the f***?!” from an unidentified “Hollywood movie.”

9. Bird Cusses Through a Thick Welsh Accent


Sarah Fisk, a 34-year-old wife and mother, felt that a homeless grey parrot would make a perfect addition to her Bristol household. Named Basil, the bird had previously lived in Wales, a fact that’s been reflected in his vernacular. “His accent is so strong sometimes that we don’t understand what he’s saying,” says Fisk, “but it definitely sounds Welsh.” Regrettably, the twang in his voice isn’t the only thing Basil picked up from his former owners. “He was very quiet and shy for the first day,” she reflects, “but then all of a sudden he started talking and rather surprised us with his adult vocabulary.” While visiting nearby veterinarian Mandy Stone, Basil chirped so many nasty names at the nurses that Fisk felt compelled to formally “apologize for his bad manners.”

These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy
5 Fascinating Facts About Koko the Gorilla
ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy
ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy

After 46 years of learning, making new friends, and challenging ideas about language, Koko the gorilla died in her sleep at her home at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California on June 21, 2018. Koko first gained recognition in the late 1970s for her ability to use sign language, but it was her friendly personality that made her a beloved icon. Here are five facts you should know about the history-making ape.


Francine "Penny" Patterson, then a graduate student at Stanford University, was looking for an animal subject for her inter-species animal communication experiment in the early 1970s when she found a baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo. Originally named Hanabiko (Japanese for "fireworks child," a reference to her Fourth of July birthdate), Koko took to signing quickly. Some of the first words Koko learned in "Gorilla Sign Language," Patterson's modified version of American Sign Language, were "food," "drink," and "more." She followed a similar trajectory as a human toddler, learning the bulk of her words between ages 2.5 and 4.5. Eventually Koko would come to know over 1000 signs and understand about 2000 words spoken to her in English. Though she never got a grasp on grammar or syntax, she was able to express complex ideas, like sadness when watching a sad movie and her desire to have a baby.


Not only did Koko use language to communicate—she also used it in a way that was once only thought possible in humans. Her caretakers have reported her signing about objects that weren't in the room, recalling memories, and even commenting on language itself. Her vocabulary was on par with that of a 3-year-old child.


Koko was the most famous great ape who knew sign language, but she wasn't alone. Michael, a male gorilla who lived with Koko at the Gorilla Foundation from 1976 until his death in 2000, learned over 500 signs with help from Koko and Patterson. He was even able to express the memory of his mother being killed by poachers when he was a baby. Other non-human primates have also shown they're capable of learning sign language, like Washoe the chimpanzee and Chantek the orangutan.


Koko received many visitors during her lifetime, including some celebrities. When Robin Williams came to her home in Woodside, California in 2001, the two bonded right away, with Williams tickling the gorilla and Koko trying on his glasses. But perhaps her most famous celebrity encounter came when Mr. Rogers paid her a visit in 1999. She immediately recognized him as the star of one of her favorite shows, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and greeted him by helping him take off his shoes like he did at the start of every episode.


Koko was never able to have offspring of her own, but she did adopt several cats. After asking for a kitten, she was allowed to pick one from a litter for her birthday in 1985. She named the gray-and-white cat "All Ball" and handled it gently as if it were her real baby, even trying to nurse it. She had recently received two new kittens for her 44th birthday named Ms. Gray and Ms. Black.


More from mental floss studios