Cursing Birds in England Give Zoo Goers More Than They Bargained For 

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khlungcenter / shutterstock.com
khlungcenter / shutterstock.com

Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom is home to the 1500-bird National Parrot Sanctuary, where zoo patrons can see a three-legged puma, play with lemurs, get up close with endangered Bengal tigers, and be cursed at by naughty, foul-mouthed parrots. 

Meet Billy, Tyson, Eric, Jade, and Elsie, five African grey parrots who keep their keepers on their toes and zoogoers in stitches with their uncensored, salty language. In August 2020, during the height of the pandemic, the sanctuary rescued the birds from five different owners and put them together in a room for a brief quarantine. 

During the quarantine, the birds taught each other to swear. 

The foul-mouthed feathered flock’s vocabulary caused a stir among the birds’ caretakers, who couldn’t help but laugh at their R-rated vocabulary. This encouraged the birds to keep swearing – and to laugh at each other. 

Now, the park has a men’s locker room-style parrot display where some birds curse, others laugh at them, and shocked zookeepers and patrons never know what to expect next. 

The park’s chief executive, Steve Nichols, explained that the parrots seemed to swear for a reaction or response. When one parrot cursed, another would laugh, perpetuating the cycle.  

After quarantine, the birds were placed in a new enclosure. The staff hoped the parrots would be quieter outside, as most tend to be shy in outdoor enclosures.  

Within the first twenty minutes, they had sworn at one person and lobbed obscenities at a group of customers.  

Despite the parrots’ salty vocabulary, visitors lodged no formal complaints. Many found it hilarious when a parrot told them to “f*** off.”  Visitors stand around the birds’ enclosure, swearing to get the parrots to copy them.  

The zoo put up a warning sign for patrons, advising parents to keep children away at the risk of hearing “every common swear word.”   

But then it happened. The salty crew taught three other birds in their enclosure to swear like a flock of foul-mouthed pirates, and the group went on to catch international attention. 

Steve Nichols, the zoo’s CEO, says he has plans for the swearing crew. The caretakers will integrate them into a larger flock of birds to learn “nicer sounds and words.” “We have about 30 birds who make the beeping sound that a reversing lorry makes. Hopefully, the rest will pick up on that and there will be less swearing,” he said.  

While he hopes the original flock’s language will be “diluted” after being with the other birds, he fears he may end up with 100 swearing parrots instead. It won’t matter, Nichols said, because the parrots need to be with other parrots. “Even though they swear, the welfare of the birds has to come first.” 

This filthy-mouthed flock is not the first time the zoo’s parrots have claimed the spotlight for Lincolnshire Wildlife Park. Chico, the yellow-crowned Amazon parrot, has a penchant for breaking into song, much to the delight of visitors. 

Chico’s claim to fame? An incredibly accurate rendition of Beyoncé’s hit song “If I Were A Boy.” When he belts out those opening lines, visitors can’t help but chuckle in the background.  

But Chico isn’t a one-hit wonder. This feathered crooner also covers tunes by other artists, including Katy Perry, Gnarls Barkley, and Lady Gaga.  

Parrots and songbirds are the two birds that can learn and mimic human speech. They learn to talk through social learning, anatomical adaptations, and their innate ability to mimic sounds. While some, like corvids, can only manage a few words and phrases, others, such as budgerigars, have been observed with an impressive vocabulary of nearly 2,000 words. Wild Australian magpies, lyrebirds, and bowerbirds who are free but exposed to people can also mimic human speech. 

Wild cockatoos in Australia have learned human speech through cultural transmission from ex-captive birds that integrated into their flocks. For example, in Sydney, Australia, wild parrots can say phrases like “Hello darling!” and “What’s happening?” 

But the Lincolnshire Zoo takes this mimicry to the next level. For the price of admission, visitors can be cursed at by parrots – and they love it.