In Brazil, a parrot was recently taken into custody as an accomplice to drug crimes after police witnessed him caw “mum, the police” when they came to raid his home.
The parrot was allegedly trained by his owners to say this when he spotted police officers approaching.
“He must have been trained for this,” one of the officers shared. “As soon as the police got close he started shouting.”
The parrot (whose name is unknown) was then taken to the police station along with his owners who were also arrested.
The bird has allegedly not opened his beak since.
“Lots of police officers have come by and he’s said nothing,” a local vet has said.
The “drug trafficking parrot” thankfully has not been charged with a crime and has even been handed over to a Brazilian zoo where he will be taught to fly properly.
And after three months of training, hopefully, the bird will then be released into the wild.
Interestingly enough, of all the creatures — only two can produce the human language.
Do you have an idea of which two creatures I am referring to?
Birds and humans, of course.
So why is it exactly that parrots can talk when primates who are closer to humans than birds, cannot?
Parrots are vocal learners — which means they are able to grasp sounds by hearing and then — imitate those sounds.
A Duke University neuroscientist and vocal learning expert, Erich Jarvis, recently published a study in Plos One explaining why exactly.
Any bird that is considered a vocal learner has a part of the brain devoted to this, called the “song system.”
But in parrots, the song system has two layers — an inner “core,” which is common to all avian vocal learners, an outer “shell,” unique to parrots.
Jarvis believes that the newly discovered “shell” is what allows parrots to be such expert mimickers — but he has yet to figure out how it works.
So why do parrots then copy human speech? Peer pressure.
Parrots naturally try to fit in — whether it’s with other parrots or people.
A research associate and part-time lecturer at Harvard, Irene Pepperberg says that in the wild, parrots use their vocals to share important information and fit in with the flock.
Pepperberg is best known for probing the intelligence of Alex, an African Grey parrot who lived in Pepperberg’s lab for 30 years until he passed in 2007.
“A single bird in the wild is a dead bird; It can’t look for food and look for predators at the same time,” Pepperberg shares, but when a part of a flock, they are able to trade off responsibilities.
Parrots are even able to learn and use varying dialects.
In Costa Rica, the Yellow-naped Amazon Parrots have regional dialects and when they swap regions, the transplants usually pick up the local twang according to Tim Wright’s research who studies parrot vocalization at New Mexico State University.
Pet parrots also have the perfect conditions for picking up a language — time, inspiration and mental ability.
“In the wild, parrots focus on other parrots for what they want to learn,” Wright says.
So if you put a parrot into a human household, it will “try to integrate itself into the situation as though the people were its flock members,” says Pepperberg.
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