Wild Cockatoos Are Swearing at People

Australian wild cockatoos have been "infiltrated" by domesticated cockatoos who have escaped. Wild birds are copying words learned by escaped household pets. Cockatoos are not the only wild birds being affected in this way. Galahs and corellas shout out words that startle people. Escaped birds breed with their wild counterparts and chicks learn to talk from parents.

The parrot family is extremely good at mimicking sounds they hear. Songbirds and hummingbirds can also do this to a degree. The problem is cockatoos and parakeets are social animals. To wild birds a word is just a new sound to be learned and used socially. Human babbling to learn language is called subsong in birds, where chicks learn by trial and error.

Like humans, cockatoos continue to learn "words" all through their lives. "Natural" cockatoo sounds go together to form a language which has its own grammar. Human words are being integrated into this language.

A pet bird may only hear a word once and the word is remembered for life, particularly swear words that are spoken with some gusto.
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