Scold parrot to unlearn? ‘It’s on their hard drive’

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“No, you can’t unlearn that”, says Maryleen van Vliet of parrot specialist Dieca. “But the moment they no longer hear swear words, it can fade away. That sometimes takes a long time. If one parrot keeps repeating it, it lingers.”

Imitate

Parrots light each other. When one makes a noise, the others quickly imitate it. “We had a parrot that imitated a crying baby, three of them are doing that now,” Van Vliet gives as an example.

They do this in order not to stand out in their environment. “If you put them among wolves, they imitate wolves, so as not to be noticed. That way a parrot remains inconspicuous.”

Hard Drive

That’s also why the animals in the British zoo started to laugh after scolding. They imitated the reactions of the zoo employees.

“They see swearing as something positive, because they get attention for the swearing,” explains Van Vliet. Placing it apart probably isn’t much use, she says. “If you put them back together after a while, they can pick it up again. Because it is scolded on their hard disk.”

Funny

Also at Zoo Veldhoven the caretakers sometimes hear the craziest words from the parrots. “Not all of our 1200 parrots swear, but some of them”, says owner Richard Loomans. “You hear the craziest words: goddamn, fool, fat man … A lot of visitors find it funny. If a person would swear, it was a different story.”

They have never been bothered by it in the zoo. Signs warn visitors that the parrots may scold, but that it is not personal. “It’s not like you are called names all the time, but you can get things to your head, yes.”

The zoo functions as a rescue center for parrots, which is why, according to Loomans, there is so much abuse. “It was put on by people. They have been sitting in a living room for maybe sixty years, there was swear words used and they are taking it over.”





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