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Wild Parrots Learning To Talk From Escaped Pet Birds

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the planet-of-the-parrots dept.

Idle 225

bazzalunatic writes "Be careful what you teach a parrot. Some chatty pet parrots that have escaped back into the wild have taught wild parrots to talk. Seems the phenomenon could be integrated into the flock through generations. From the article: 'The evolution of language could well be passed on through the generations, says Ken. "If the parents are talkers and they produce chicks, their chicks are likely to pick up some of that," he says. This phenomenon is not unique; some lyrebirds in southern Australia still reproduce the sounds of axes and old shutter-box cameras their ancestors once learnt.'" While this doesn't reach the amazing level of Washoe the chimpanzee teaching sign language, it is still interesting and reminiscent of something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

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225 comments

So many punch lines ... (4, Funny)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410032)

Maybe they really are pining for the fyords.

Re:So many punch lines ... (2)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411320)

There will always be more novices than experts. -- Bjarne Stroustrup

Stroustrup obviously never worked in a COBOL shop.

Re:So many punch lines ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411366)

Anyone want to bet on the number of generations until they're all using variations of "Suck my balls?"

The intrepid young explorerers.. (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410040)

Will now be greeted with the endless chants of "Get off my lawn!".

Planet of the Parrots (2)

rjejr (921275) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410044)

Rise of the Planet of the Parrots

Fascinating... (2)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410068)

You would think that entropy would degrade any language learned pretty quickly, but those lyrebirds seem to demonstrate that sort of behavior sticks rather than fades rapidly.

Makes me wonder how small a trigger was required to spark human speech evolution. At one time, we probably weren't all that different than these lyrebirds/parrots.

Re:Fascinating... (1, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410198)

Have you tuned into Fox News lately?

Re:Fascinating... (2, Funny)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410386)

Why, they covering some governmental fuck up the others won't?

Re:Fascinating... (0)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410608)

I guess if I have to explain the "evolved upward from mindlessly repeating stuff" joke, it wasn't that funny in the first place.

Re:Fascinating... (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411558)

No, they cover the entire government as a fuck up.

Re:Fascinating... (1)

UnanimousCoward (9841) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411630)

This story is really fascinating to me as I just finished up the Hunger Games trilogy [scholastic.com] . I wonder if Collins got the idea for mockingjays here or it's just a coincidence...

Do they really understand what they are saying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410082)

Or are they just parroting back what the teacher is saying?

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (4, Informative)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410140)

They actually know the point of what they are saying. My birds know our names, say thinks like "thank you" when they want something, "night night" when they want their cage covered, "hello" when the phone rings, "water" when they want to be sprayed, and say "don't bark" when my dog barks.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410350)

Even my cat has mastered stuff like that. He knows his name or that it means I want his attention, and "treats" and "food" and "shutup". He also will stand near whatever he wants solved and cry. By that I mean stand near a dirty litter box and cry for it to be cleaned, or food bowl that is empty or closed door. Meaning he at the very least understands that getting my attention when something is wrong can solve it. Which as simple conditioning goes seems pretty reasonable for a cat to get.

He cannot make new stuff up, but this simple level of communication seems common among animals. I wonder how many humans can't do any more than that anyway.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410648)

You would be surprised. my 3 year old mental experiment cat recently started playing fetch. She would go and get a small cat toy and bring it to you. if you throw it away she goes to get it and brings it back.

Nobody trained it, it learned it by watching the dog and decided... that looks fun.

Animals can come up with new solutions. I have seen dogs try something new to get to a bit of food under a table.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410932)

We have a cat that likes to play fetch and we don't even have a dog for him to have learned from.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410728)

Good for you! This typically means you have above average intelligence. The average dog can learn a vocabulary of over two hundred words. The average cat somewhat less, but close. Parrots can easily master double that.

I've had complete conversations with my cat in the past. Did he understand every word? No. Did he understand enough to comprehend the discussion. Yes.

Many people confuse comprehension with active use. I'm constantly amazed at sites with so many so-called intelligent people, who in the past will rush to assure you these animals are simply mocking and are incapable of comprehension or anything other than brainless, dumb parroting. For anyone who has attempted to learn a second language, its much the same. Its also like speaking to a young child. You can frequently understand more than you can verbalize yourself. Likewise, many young children understand the parent far better than the child itself can communicate back.

I've even had discussion with people who assured me its impossible for an animal to communicate because, after all, their animal doesn't understand anything. I'm forced to remind them that if they treat their children like dumb animals and only communicate by screaming and beating them, they'll quickly have dumb children which will rival the stupidity of their animals.

Many animals are surprisingly intelligent and capable of rather rich communication so long as the owner takes time to teach AND LEARN. Commonly cats are thought of as extremely unintelligent. Every time I've encountered this, its always been the owner who has been extremely dumb and unintelligent, incapable of communication. I say this because people rush to forget, or refuse to acknowledge, many animals perform much of their communication with body language. This is especially important for animals like cats. For example, I could tell my cat I wanted to roughly play by turning by body sideways, puffing my body, and slowly progressing toward him. Oddly enough, this is the same language they use with each other and what he used with me. Its funny as hell for a human to do, but it communicates everything to a cat.

If you own an animal of moderate or higher intelligence and make no effort to both teach it your language and learn theirs, you don't live with a pet - you simply cohabitate with an animal; to which it can make the same claim.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (4, Interesting)

eclectus (209883) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410760)

I know a parrot that has put together new phrases to describe objects that he is unfamiliar with. He enjoys having water misted or sprayed lightly on him, and will ask for a 'shower'. However, he dislikes being outside in the rain. whenever he hears or sees rain outside, he proclaims 'bad shower' but was never taught that. he uses the same tonal inflection that he uses when he calls the dog over then says 'bad dog. go lay down'. He can be a jerk sometimes.

Re:Do they really understand what they are saying? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411862)

he uses the same tonal inflection that he uses when he calls the dog over then says 'bad dog. go lay down'. He can be a jerk sometimes.

Does the dog listen to the parrot?

Words, Not Communication (2)

Slider451 (514881) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410084)

Parrots learn words but not language. Associating words with rewards through Pavlovian training is not communication. Clearly spoken gibberish is still gibberish.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410138)

Why the hell does someone always try to bring Obama into the discussion?

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410282)

Because we're hoping for a change?

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411018)

Why the hell does someone always try to bring Obama into the discussion?

Obama has nothing to do with talking parrots.

The parrots don't need a teleprompter.

Re:Words, Not Communication (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410146)

You must be unfamiliar with Alex the Grey Parrot. He could combine abstract concepts like "blue" and "truck" to correctly identify a toy he had never seen before as a "blue truck".

Re:Words, Not Communication (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410174)

To be fair, African Greys are the top of the top.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410246)

Even better than Norwegian Blues?

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

Tickety-boo (1206428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411610)

Now I've got "Bjorn under a bad sign" stuck in my head. Thanks....

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410252)

No, that's the Norwegian Blue. Lovely plumage!

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410248)

Alex was a special case. He had received decades of organized schooling from scientists, who I'd like to think make better teachers than birds.

You can be sure that the birds in this article are just mimicking sounds.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411120)

He had received decades of organized schooling from scientists, who I'd like to think make better teachers than birds.

Why ? I think that Dr Pepperberg would say it took a decade or so just to figure out how to teach him at all, which is a disadvantage the birds wouldn't have.

Flocks are social constructs, highly organized. They can include birds from other species (show me a human tribe that does that). That alone says that there is some active learning going on.

More to the point, however, if these flocks can start usefully communicating with the humans that they interact with, there will be very strong evolutionary pressure to improve the communication. That is what I see as the real significance here.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411456)

More to the point, however, if these flocks can start usefully communicating with the humans that they interact with, there will be very strong evolutionary pressure to improve the communication. That is what I see as the real significance here.

Great. Now instead of pigeons keeping to themselves and waiting for people to throw bread at them, we'll get urban parrots running up to us screeching "Awwwk! Gimme some bread, man!"

Re:Words, Not Communication (1, Flamebait)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411460)

Dr Pepperberg

Wait.... really? I thought Dr. Pepper was already Kosher, why did the Jews make their own version?

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411506)

Flocks are social constructs, highly organized. They can include birds from other species (show me a human tribe that does that).

Any tribe with dogs or horses.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411824)

My mom has a cat, but that doesn't mean they're on equal footing. (The cat is in charge.)

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410320)

Absolutely. We have an African Grey, and while Shredder (name earned from an annoying habit) doesn't have Alex's vocabulary, the words he/she does use are used appropriately. E.g.: The phone rights, and as you pick up, the bird says "Hello" before you do. You head to the stairway to call the kid down for school, and you here the kid's name before you say it. The funny thing is that you can't make the bird say anything... but you can't stop it from repeating words that it wants to say.

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410720)

You can lead a horse to water but the only thing you can make it do is drown. Same with a bird. I think a good throttling would make it shut up in a hurry.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410488)

I speculate wildly, but would it be even remotely possible that if a talking parrot like Alex [wikipedia.org] were released into the wild, found a mate and had chicks, that then the chicks would be taught to use language just as Alex did?
Wouldn't it be cool that if you were lost in the jungle sometime, you could ask the local parrots for directions?

I call on Dr. Pepperberg [wikipedia.org] to perform this next phase of the experiment in inter-species communications!

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411190)

then the chicks would be taught to use language just as Alex did?

I understand Alex had years of instruction. Do African grey chicks stick around with the family unit?

Re:Words, Not Communication (4, Interesting)

eclectus (209883) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410778)

Or when he asked 'what color Alex?'. He knew many colors, but no one taught him the color grey. That showed comprehension as well as self awareness.

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411806)

what are you replying to that mentions grey/

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410166)

I would think the parrots would disagree. They already associate sounds with ideas ("I want sex", "watch out!") In various forms, and words are just sounds with meaning in the same sense. We might train parrots to associate our words with our meanings (pavlovian training), but that isn't stopping them from using our words for their own meanings.

Re:Words, Not Communication (3, Interesting)

Manax (41161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410230)

Parrots and other birds are trained very poorly via Pavlovian conditioning. That isn't the only type of training, and Model-Rival training works much more effectively on birds (which isn't to say anything about how it works on other animals).

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

Slider451 (514881) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410260)

Interesting. I stand corrected. Thanks.

Re:Words, Not Communication (2)

Manax (41161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410572)

Irene Pepperberg (the linguist that trained Alex, among others) talks about it extensively, and uses it predominantly. Wikipedia has some articles on it, and The Alex Studies (which is a collection of papers on her parrots, how they were trained, what linguistic skills they demonstrated in particular tests) talks about it in significant detail. It's a great book if you're into that sort of thing... ;)

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410314)

Equating sounds with canned meanings falls short of communicating. To rise to the level of language, the birds would need to string multiple words together in a way they had never heard before, and have other birds understand their meaning.

Some lab animals have come close in the past, but that's not what's happening here.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410204)

There's been research showing parrots' use of words can be a good deal more sophisticated than Pavolvian conditioning: check out Alex the research parrot [wikipedia.org] . I don't claim this rises to the level of true language as humans use it, but neither do I think it's appropriate to dismiss it as simple stimulus/response.

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410460)

I'm not so sure about that.. Isn't learning nouns pretty closely related to conditioning. When parents point at something and say the word for it, they are essentially presenting a stimulus, while saying a word. After some time, the infant starts thinking of the stimulus when hearing the word, and starts thinking of the word when presented with the stimulus. Isn't that learning by conditioning?

Re:Words, Not Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410984)

Parrots learn words but not language.

Research clearly proves you completely wrong. Period.

Parrots can not only learn language, they are capable of very complex language, and can even create new words, based on the vocabulary they know and new contexts. Their ability to do so pales in comparison to primates. Nonetheless, they are capable for higher language and communication skills which are frequently only associated with humans and primates.

I will say, research does indicate not all parrots are capable of such language skills and its thought that its the exception (very intelligent parrots) rather than the rule. Nonetheless, your rigid rule is known to completely wrong.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

dwreid (966865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411094)

Actually that's not true. Some grey parrots in particular have shown the ability to use language, combing words correctly to describe things they have never seen before.

Re:Words, Not Communication (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411546)

The concept that humans alone, or only primates have language or self-awareness is simply false. Dolphins, apes/chimps, cats, dogs, and clearly even some birds have (or can learn) language and cognitive skills that clearly demonstrate capacities far beyond what they've been taught. That animals learn human languages more effectively than humans learn animal languages suggests one or more of several things:

1. That something about the nature of human languages actually promotes abstract thought.
2. Animals are better students than humans.
3. That humans are better teachers than animals.

Ever watch a raccoon figure out how to get into a closed box or can? Ever watch a squirrel figure out how to get food from a squirrel resistant bird feeder? Ever seen a dog accidentally ring the doorbell, then train himself to do it on the first try every time he wants in? Ever see someone have a conversation with a cat, IN CAT LANGUAGE? Ever see a cat or dog recognize images of dogs, cats, or mice on TV? Ever see a cat look in a mirror and groom himself? I've witnessed all of those things.

It's mighty arrogant of us humans to think we're the only species with language, abstract thought, logic, or self-awareness. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary. Our abilities may be more developed than those of other species, but those abilities are definitely not exclusive to humans.

My birds do this too (1)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410088)

I have noticed this with my quaker (monk) parrots. I have had sets of two over the past 25 years and what the two birds I have today was actually originally tough to previous birds I once had. It seems that they teach each other much like children teach children's games to one and other.

Re:My birds do this too (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410454)

It seems that [parrots] teach each other much like children teach children's games to one and other [sic].

Parrots (and even chimps) only mimic. They do not actively teach.

Re:My birds do this too (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411006)

Parrots (and even chimps) only mimic. They do not actively teach.

You obviously don't have much experience here.

Parrots and Washoe (1, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410102)

Parrots have been observed teaching other adult parrots to talk, so I'm not sure what's more amazing about Washoe. Unlike chimps, the wild parrots learned as well.

I'm not a parrot... I'm a unicorn (1)

James McGuigan (852772) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410128)

Have parrots successfully passed the Turing test... this seems like very much the same approach as cleverbot... robottically repeating sounds and phrases that it once heard without any read understanding of meaning

Re:I'm not a parrot... I'm a unicorn (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410844)

Have parrots successfully passed the Turing test... this seems like very much the same approach as cleverbot... robottically repeating sounds and phrases that it once heard without any read understanding of meaning

It also sounds disconcertingly similar to most Republicans I've met...

Re:I'm not a parrot... I'm a unicorn (0)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411450)

similar to most Republicans I've met

Republicans pass the Turing test? Evidence please!

Re:I'm not a parrot... I'm a unicorn (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410956)

People that keep parrots (as I do) tend to be very impressed with their intelligence, although it is different from ours. They tend to have a fine understanding of people's emotional states, are very attentive to fine details, and typically can communicate well. I have no doubt that they understand some words and phrases and are not "parroting" much.

Still, parrots have been living in flocks a long time, and probably don't need human words to communicate within them. If human language catches on, it will be because they are using it to communicate with humans, and such communication in the wild is likely to be pretty simple (go away, or give me some food, things like that), and there may be an element of "parroting" in that.

BTW, I am not very impressed with the Turing test as a measure of intelligence. (For example, take a person with mid-level Alzheimer's into a social setting. They may understand nothing of the conversation, but as long as they say the right things at the right time, which they frequently can do, everyone thinks that they are doing just fine.)

Re:I'm not a parrot... I'm a unicorn (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411792)

What if Julian Jaynes is right? Then the mere act of living with humans and learning to communicate as they do may change the way a bird thinks, perhaps even give it a sentience of a sort.

Washoe is amazing (5, Interesting)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410136)

One of Washoe's caretakers was pregnant and missed work for many weeks after she miscarried. Roger Fouts recounts the following situation:
"People who should be there for her and aren't are often given the cold shoulder--her way of informing them that she's miffed at them. Washoe greeted Kat [the caretaker] in just this way when she finally returned to work with the chimps. Kat made her apologies to Washoe, then decided to tell her the truth, signing "MY BABY DIED". Washoe stared at her, then looked down. She finally peered into Kat's eyes again and carefully signed "CRY", touching her cheek and drawing her finger down the path a tear would make on a human. (Chimpanzees don't shed tears.) Kat later remarked that that one sign told her more about Washoe and her mental capabilities than all her longer, grammatically perfect sentences."[22]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_%28chimpanzee%29
Damn, that's incredible

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410224)

I enjoyed the section of the Nim Chimpsky project where they tried to replicate Washoe's success in a scenario that almost sounds like a human classroom. Dismal failure.

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410404)

I've read the book by her handler, Roger Fouts, about Washoe and the other chimps he worked with.

Much as I am a proponent of medical research going forward, I can't help but feel strongly that testing on chimps/great apes is one of the biggest mistakes we could possibly make.

Re:Washoe is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410462)

What if we ask the stinking apes first?

Re:Washoe is amazing (0)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410450)

No, chimps don't produce tears, but humans do, and the ASL sign is a mimic of a tear coming down the face. The arbitrary nature of the sign means that Washoe would have signed a fake tear no matter what the capabilities of her species is, because otherwise she wouldn't have been signing the sign for "CRY".

Also, no chimp has learned syntax of language. Yes, they learn some signs, and can then express some limited ideas, but they put them in random orders until their desires are met. "TICKLE ME ME ME TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE ME TICKLE TICKLE ME ME ME." is one particular expression that I'm reminded about reading that they would make.

I don't doubt that there are people who told their dog/cat that they had a miscarriage, and project a response from the dog that makes them believe that the dog/cat actually understood what happened.

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410894)

So you believe that out of 350+ known expressions, the chimp chose the one appropriate response... by chance?

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411398)

Perhaps the lady telling the chimp of her miscarriage was perceptibly sad or emotional? I have no doubt that she could have told a dog that her baby died, and the dog would have acted noticeably sympathetic (as dogs do). Signing 'cry' may have been simply a recognition of the person's emotional state, rather than an abstract reasoning process ('her baby died... it's sad when babies die... I'll sign 'cry' in sympathy).

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411834)

If the woman looked like she was going to cry, "CRY" would have been a natural sign for the chimp to make, regardless of whether she understood the human's emotional state or empathized with it.

Re:Washoe is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411788)

Dogs and cats are smarter about pregnancy that you obviously think, with your limited, armchair psuedo-psychomological views.

Animals live in a different sensual world than ours. These rely on scent like we rely on sight. While they may not be able to ponder the state of things, they comprehend pregnancy, childbirth, and lineage, as those things actually DO matter to them as much as eating, drinking, and the smell of poop. Animals can smell the sadness on a person through pheromone output. They can also smell the hormonal imbalance of a miscarriage. In fact, I would challenge you to find a dog that DIDN'T offer its sympathies to an owner that just had a miscarriage.

Re:Washoe is amazing (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410768)

Damn, that's incredible

Sure is!

Say, my cat can do differential calculus, when nobody else is around.

If you want me to believe your monkey tale, don't call me a liar.

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411496)

SchrÃdinger, is that you?

Anecdotal evidence (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411372)

Anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be true but unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise unrepresentative of typical cases.

Also, anecdotal evidence can be inaccurate, sometimes based on anecdotes, second-hand accounts of events or hearsay.

Anecdotal evidence, which may itself be true and verifiable, can be used to deduce a conclusion which does not follow from it, usually by generalising from an insufficient amount of evidence. For example "my grandfather smoked like a chimney and died healthy in a car crash at the age of 99" does not disprove the proposition that "smoking markedly increases the probability of cancer and heart disease at a relatively early age". While the evidence is true, it does not warrant the conclusion made from it.

Re:Washoe is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411646)

And the fact that those other retards who answered to this comment *still* have the same mindset of humans being the oh-so-special superior "chosen ones" that was previously the motivation for:
- "Earth is the center of the universe!"
- "Animals don't have feelings!" (Seriously! People thought they were like empty automatons, and not actually really alive.)
- The "master race".
- "Black people are just a kind of animal. They are not real people."
- "Humans are chosen by god!"
- "There in no life in this universe, except for us!"
- "Humans are not animals! They are something higher!" (Yes. We. Are. Animals.)
- "We are the only species who can do X" (And then we found out, we weren't.)

Everyone repeat after me: We are not special! We are not different! We are just another animal that traded being better (but not as much as we think) in particular skill (brain power) against being good in just about any other skill (our senses are shit, we have no claws, sharp teeth, poison stings, etc, we are weak [a chimpanzee can pull 800kg]... if it weren't for our brain power, we'd be at the losing end of natural selection in nearly every aspect).

Re:Washoe is amazing (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411892)

It would certainly be interesting to know what the response would have been to other short sentences that included the word "died" since that word is so heavily associated with negative emotions. Something where the response of being sad would be unusual like "the poison made all the bad bugs die". It's also hard to tell how much was based on language and how much was based on Washoe reading the caretakers other emotional cues. I don't dispute that this chimp had some amazing abilities that withstood rigorous scientific evaluation but I worry when a disproportionate amount of weight is placed on the biased and emotionally loaded stories like this for which there was no control for.

I think it is simple what we need to do here, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410150)

Everyone go out, buy some parrots, teach them all sorts of language, "lose" them, done.

Pretty soon, we will have parrots the world over saying "quaack, GET OFF MY LAWN, beowulf cluster quaaaack"

This. Must. Happen.

Re:I think it is simple what we need to do here, (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410300)

Not quaack. Arrrr!

Re:I think it is simple what we need to do here, (3, Funny)

skywhale (664067) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410714)

Teach them "Help! Help! They've turned me into a parrot!"

Re:I think it is simple what we need to do here, (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411902)

Okay, that was funny.

That explains a lot... (1)

Ken Broadfoot (3675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410244)

Wandering in the jungle hearing voices.... "Zoom zoom zoom"
Parrots and TV commercials don't mix...

European Starlings (2)

emagery (914122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410356)

While E.Starlings are not as talented at it as other mimics, they can achieve a somewhat 'bad recording' style mimic of the human voice. They're also the ones notorious for producing large undulating clouds in the sky (consisting of thousands if not, in extreme cases, millions of birds.) Point being, I've always wanted to somehow snag a gigantic flock of these birds and train them all to say something creepy like 'i'll get you' before releasing them back into the wild.

Re:European Starlings (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410724)

I'd prefer "Look out below!"

Re:European Starlings (1)

emagery (914122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410918)

Oh absolutely; in the name of brevity, I just went with the first thing that came to mind.

Re:European Starlings (1)

boristdog (133725) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410992)

I've got some mockingbirds on my property that perfectly mimic my landline phone's ring.

Annoyed the crap out of me until I just learned to stop running back in the house to answer the phone when I heard it ring.

Re:European Starlings (3, Interesting)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411238)

I had a nest of Starlings under the roof as a teenager. When the hatchlings started to move around the neighbourhood, you could hear the sounds of DOOM everywhere, as I had been playing that a lot. ;-)

There were about 6 of them going "ratatatata Boom Psshhh" all the time. It was funny.

Re:European Starlings (1)

dorianh49 (988940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411826)

Wish I had some mod points (haven't seen them in a long time); that's interesting stuff :)

Re:European Starlings (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411816)

Teach them to 'hum' Flight of the Valkyries - badly. If i were a bird, and didn't wear pants, that'd be what I'd sing.

Re:European Starlings (1)

Ksisanth (915235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411890)

I kept a common starling many years ago that had an impressive vocabulary. If only he'd known he was supposed to have a "'bad recording' style", perhaps his cursing wouldn't have been so distinct. He even had a drawl: "Woll shee-ut!"

Let's hope... (1)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410498)

None of these parrots escape from homes that frequently watch Jersey Shore. Future generations will despise us.

I for one... (1)

stazeii (1148459) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410526)

Look forward to our new talking parrot overlords.

I had a giant McCaw that had tourets... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410560)

IT was funny as hell in college when I bought that bird that had problems for almost nothing.... $50.00 for a Blue and Yellow giant McCaw is unheard of and he was a nice bird, never bit hard....

But it would wear a LOT. "fucking watermelons" was one of it's favorite things to say. It's funny for about 3 months. then the damn thing's non stop talking and swearing get's old. it would assemble strange words together as well. I had that bird for 5 years before I found a zoo that would take him and deal with the problems.

He loved sitting on people and then sqwuak as loud as possible into the ear, then start swearing at you.

Re:I had a giant McCaw that had tourets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37410710)

When my dad was a kid, he lived in a very small town. Sailors came home from world war 2, and there was a pet parrot aboard ship that came home with one of them. It was a nice bird, but its language was very badly polluted. If he took the bird into a saloon, the owner of the bar would, within half an hour, ask him to take the bird outside. It would whistle at girls, and they would smile. Then it would start talking. After half an hour, even the most surly drunks get tired of the non-stop blue air. He didn't want to buy another bird because he didn't want a second bird learning new words from the first. The bird had to stay home. It was a shame. Nice bird, couldn't take it anywhere. It really wanted company (another bird would be best), but there was no way.

Re:I had a giant McCaw that had tourets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411480)

Sounds like a coworker of mine.

No surprise (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37410722)

I keep parrots and have been predicting this for some time. The ability to talk is incredibly advantageous in a world increasingly dominated by people, and so there would be a strong selection effect in its favor. Since they can do it, and since there are birds passing between the wild and the human worlds, I would look for this to spread, especially (as the story says) for birds in city flocks.

Re:No surprise (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411882)

> The ability to talk is incredibly advantageous in a
> world increasingly dominated by people

I'm skeptical that interacting with humans could increase their odds of survival.

Video, or it didn't happen. (1)

Shandalar (1152907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411052)

I call {{fact}}.

TinTin (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411178)

I think one of the TinTin/Kuifje comics already used this as a joke, or otherwise it was an early Suske&Wiske. Which means it's from 1960 or before, so nothing new here.

NOOOOOOOO!!!!! (1)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411302)

Rise of The Planet Of The Parrots!

Laugh it up, talking parrots are everywhere. They have infiltrated our sites and our TVs, spreading misinformation and fanbotism in an attempt to undermine the gullible humans.

Krrck - Don't tame me, bro. (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411446)

Krrck - Don't tame me, bro.

Language is a virus (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37411756)

According to William S. Burroughs (and a Laurie Anderson song inspired by him), language is a virus.

Ugly Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37411808)

Anyone seen the cartoon?? I hope the manbird language doesnt transfer. We'll be hearing "suck my balls" everywhere!!

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