Some of us, at one time or another, fancy having a parrot for a pet. Sulfur crested cockatoos are a popular choice. The first thing most of us do when we meet a pet parrot is try and talk to them. And we’re delighted when they talk back. Usually the conversation isn’t riveting with “Hello” and “Who’s a pretty boy?” being as far as we go. How we can keep saying that for minutes at a time is a wonder of nature.

In the wild, cockatoos stick together in a tight flock and are rather raucous, especially over breakfast. I can recall a stay in an apartment in Canberra where, outside my bedroom window, there was a rather nice tree. This was on the local flock’s daily peregrination and they had been brought up to have a very strict routine. They arrived precisely at six o’clock every morning and stayed for 30 minutes, no more, no less. 

The screeching from a large flock of cockatoos when it’s much too early to be shaking off the effects of the previous night’s wine tasting is a uniquely painful Australian experience. No one, and I mean no one, was a “pretty boy” during those 30 minutes.

There is a new development that has shown up around Sidney suburbia as the food supply has shifted north. Shears in his Daily Mail report (1) tells us that the locals at their barbies are staring in wonder at their tinny of the amber fluid as they hear “g’day darling” coming from the trees.

It seems that a significant number of escapees, who have learned to talk Strine, have joined up with the roving bands and taught their little ones to speak. Mr. Robinson of the Australian Museum has been documenting this new phenomenon, although he is a little concerned that no new ones turn up who have been taught to swear.


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