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Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of I Heart Radio. Cohen, welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark and Charles W. Tribbles, the Bryant, and there's Jerry Ruland. Great plumage, just sticking me in the face right now. And this is that was a great pair. And this is stuff you should know about parrots, which is a surprisingly interesting topic.


Chuck, nice one. Nice pick. Ah, that's good.


Just that the whole time we're going to we're going to hammer out like a means of communication just with that sound throughout this episode, OK?


Oh man. That of a great Garretti broke character, Chuck. No, no. I think to the relief of every single person listening to you.


So you were surprised, huh? Yeah.


I mean, I know parrots are need or whatever, but I and I knew that they were probably one of the smartest animals or some of them are some are just, you know, dumb as doorknobs. But there are plenty that are really smart that make up for the really dumb ones. But I just I know I didn't know that they were quite this this neat. And also one of my new favorite things is like watching little happy birds like hop around and sing.


And there's a lot of parents they do that. It's like one of their traits, like they're really cute kind of animal.


I love it. In your mid 40s, you're turned on to the joy of birds chirping and jumping around. I didn't say I was turned on by it.


Turned on to it. Oh, gosh.


There's a big difference between those two. Have you ever had any experience of parrots or known bird people?


I don't know. So tangentially I was. You miss Grandma has or had a parrot. She passed away a year or so ago, but her parrot is still alive. Yeah, she had a couple poodle and Brutus and poodle was fine. But Brutus terrorized you me when she was growing up. I mean like terrorized her and they didn't see her for many years. And when I was when I visited and met her grandma and Brutus Brutus like at first, was just kind of like Ho-hum.


And then you could tell the moment he recognized you, me and he lunged at her, he was like you.


I remember you after all those years.


He still just did not like you. Me for some reason.


Yeah. I mean, I've got some parrots and bird stuff that I'll pepper throughout when it's applicable. But look, you know, bird folks, I mean, if you're a bird person, my experience has been bird people are just sometimes a little eccentric. Oh yeah.


Bird people are definitely a certain type, just like cat people are a certain type and dog people are a certain type.


But there's a lot of people and dog people. Sure. Yeah. Yeah.


I think that's one of the things that makes bird people seem eccentric is there's far fewer of them.


But you know, one of the things I didn't realize it could be that could be also like the extensive stacks of paperback fantasy novels that just lying their flaws throughout their house. That, too. Yeah, but one of the things that I didn't realize is that birds are the fourth, fourth most popular pet in the United States, which makes sense if you think about it. But I never really thought about all my mind just stops after dogs, which are number one.


Yeah, I mean, dogs, cats, what is it, fish? Yeah, and then birds. That's right. I would expect goats to be somewhere on there, but I think people just love seeing goats and not necessarily owning them.


You know, sure. But I think a lot of people who own birds, especially parrots, come to feel the same way after they've bought a parrot, as we'll see.


Yeah. So should we dig into this thing?


I thought we already had. So there are a lot of different kinds of parrots. They are I mean, there are close to 400 species of the order. And I'd look this up in a couple of places. Sinisi for MI's. Hmm.


Did you get. Yeah. I thought you were going to say citizens, but yeah, that's that's how I would have said it.


OK, yeah. And we're talking like, you know, if you think of a parrot, you probably think of like, oh, it's a macaw, right. An African grey. But if you've seen a parakeet or a lorikeet or a cockatiel or cockatoo, those are all parrots as well.


Yeah. So I love birds as well. There's there's a lot of different kinds of birds that are parrots, and some of them just don't even really look like you're like that's an eagle or I think that's a kind of vulture. Like they're very they're really varied order. But they all have in common a couple of things that will see, one of which is a short beak that's curved usually, which is very, very powerful. And then they also have a certain kind of toe arrangement called the Ziga Dactyl Towra, and talk more about it a little bit.


But other than that, they are really kind of very, like I was saying, in size and shape and color and even down to some kinds of species. They can be varied among the male and the female. So much so I think there's one oh, I can't remember which one it was, but it was a kind of parrot, smallish parrot where the males in the females look so totally different color wise that they were thought to be different species for a very long time.


That's right. That's the Solomon Islands. Eclectus, thank you. Show off. But thank you. So, you know, like you said, they vary in size. There are some that are so big, like the kakapo in New Zealand, that can be like a seven pounder.


Did you see any videos of those guys? They're great. They can't even fly. They're so big. No, they don't. They don't.


They they bound along. Yeah. Their wings. They don't work for flying, but they use them for stability because they mostly climb trees. But yeah, they're ground dwelling. They look like little furry or feathery mammals basically.


Sort of. I don't know why that. Has it been a Disney character yet. I don't either, because they also seem to be very sweet. I saw some New Zealand like, I guess researchers who were tracking them. And I don't even think they put this one kakapo under when they took a blood sample. It was just laying in their lap. And I think it was like just basically like, yeah, just hanging out, you know, like, go ahead, just take the blood and let me go again.


So they're super super chill. But yeah, they would make a perfect Disney character for sure. Yeah.


So those are the big daddies. There are ones from New Guinea that are just a few inches away, less than an ounce. I think the hyacinth macaw is generally the biggest just in size. They can be three and a half feet long. They can have four foot wingspan. Wow. And I think the the kind of trademark characteristic when you think of parrots, though, are the vibrant colors.


You know, some are like the grey African grey is mainly just grey that has a little bit of red. But when you think of parrots, you think of those really brightly coloured blues and greens and reds and little rosy cheeks and stuff like that. Yeah.


And I mean, obviously the reason why parrots have very bright colours is to attract mates. Like that's basically the reason for anything to have a bright colour, unless it's showing that it's poisonous. And as far as we've ever found, parrots are not poisonous.


But one of the special what do you think? Right. Debye Dawn of the specialty's are the parents in parrots. It's apparently not found in other birds, though, Chuck, is that those pigments have antibacterial properties, which I guess keep them from getting like wing rot or something like that.


Yeah, there's there's I think it's called silico boy. Here we go. Silico phones are those pigments and they're found only in parents. There aren't even any other birds that have these.


Yeah, but I mean, other birds have colours, but they don't have that specific kind of antibacterial agent. Colour. Pigment, right.


That's right. And you mentioned the toes. That is a you know, along with I think like owls and woodpeckers. And I think there are some other birds that. These ZoGo dactyl feet, but that means they have the usual four toes, but most birds have three in one arrangement, like three up front, one in the back. In this case, they have to up front to in the back. So, Juliette, help us put this together.


And she basically points out that, like, this means they have two sets of opposable thumbs. So that's why they're really good climbers and they can hold on to a branch like it's, you know, so the sun comes up dead by dawn style.


Exactly. And if you've ever seen a parrot work, a nut or seed or something with the combination of the beak in those four toes, it's pretty, pretty dexterous. Yeah.


That's also, again, how those kakapos can climb trees without any ability to fly. They I mean, they can maneuver. They can hang. I believe there's an upside down hanging type of parrot, which I'm not sure why it hangs upside down, maybe just to show off that it has zygote actual toes maybe. But they can do a lot with those things.


And yeah, in combination with their beak, they're they're really working it. Apparently their beak as well. That sharp, short, curved beak that they're all parrots have is extremely powerful.


But they they move independently of one another, the lower beak in the upper beak. So it can exert a lot of force. And that really helps out because a lot of their futer like really hard nuts and seeds and things like that. But they they're nothing in the face of a parrot speak.




It's if you've ever been chomp down on by a parrot, it's rough. Yeah.


They'll take a chunk of skin out where they were when I worked in Arizona. That restaurant in Yuma, Juliana's Patio Cafe, it was an outdoor cafe and they had the owner, Julia had parrots. And I think there were like five of them just kind of behind where you eat on these stands, not even caged. And they were mean snakes. Not to her they were. But if you were not her and you went up and you were like, oh, let me give you a little ear scratch, one of those things could just fly its little head around and chomp down on your finger.


And it feels like it's in a vise.


Yeah, well, you're lucky. Sharp, they could have taken your finger clean off. Probably there's anecdotal stories that that we were not able to verify, but it's definitely worth mentioning that a large parrot could snap a broomstick with its beak, which is if you read it, it's really impressive. When you say it out loud, you feel very foolish.


A little bit. I mean, sure, I guess it depends on the broom, but it's a really old way.


Rotted termite. Rotted broomstick. Yeah.


Let's just say it's really, really a lot of force and my finger can vouch for that.


Was that some of the peppering you alluded to earlier? That's when one kind of pepper, one green pepper guy.


I had a bird that'll come up later. I can't wait for that one. Yeah.


So Chuck, you were saying that, like, they wouldn't bite Julia, Juliana, Juliana do it because she was part of their flock, as we'll see.


And it turns out that there are some parents get along with other species of parrots and even other species of birds and other kinds don't so much so that when you read like a parrot owner's guide, they're basically like, if you're going to get, you know, other birds do not get this kind with this kind of ironic love, birds are famously mean to other species of birds. But if you're in their flock, then you're you're one of them. And that's one thing that one reason why parrots make such great pets for so many people is because they imprint with humans really well.


And, ah, you're just a member of their family and they're a member of your family. That's just the way it is to the parrot. If you're an outsider interloper. Yeah, they'll take your finger off like it's the old broomstick.


So you was never ingratiated herself?


I guess not. Which is surprising because everybody likes you. Me, you know.


I know like animals flocked to her like Snow White, basically. Yeah. She's always she's got this lam following around now. I don't know where that came from. It is cute. It is. The Lamming is coming soon unfortunately for the boy.


Well let's take a little break there then and we'll come back and talk a little bit about parrots in the wild.


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OK, so, Chuck, we were talking we're going to talk about parrots in the wild, which is where they used to be more often than not and still are like there's something like 300 and about 350 360 known species of parrots.


But a lot of them are dying off really quick, as we'll talk about. But the thing about parrots we're learning is that they're really resilient, like they can adapt and find homes and make homes for themselves in new climates. So you'll find them typically in their preferred area around the tropics, around the equator, typically in the southern hemisphere. But you're also going to find them like living up in mountain ranges, high up on rocky outcrops. You'll find them in Chicago's Hyde Park.


There's a bunch in Connecticut. They're kind of all over the place.


Even though no native species from the United States are still around, there's still plenty of like wild feral parrots that live out in the US.


Yeah, when I was in Australia, we had our couple of down days. And, you know, my buddy Scotty, our friend Scotty came over to join us. And we Scotty and I went down to Wine Country south of south of Melbourne, which is just some of those beautiful land I've ever seen in my life.


And we were at a wine winery overlooking this huge vineyard and then like the sort of woodland jungle. And I saw these huge white birds flying around down there. And we were the only people there, we were there in the off season, so everywhere we went, we were the only two people kind of tasting. And so we got, you know, to hang out with the winemakers, which is cool, right? And they said, well, that a cockatoos and I was just a naive American.


I didn't know they just flew around Australia like that.


And I said, just, you know, those like they sell those in stores for a lot of money in the United States. And I said it's just crazy to me that they're just flying around. Yeah.


Apparently, there was a time not terribly long ago where you could see beautiful green cockatoos or parakeets, um, sorry, flying around the United States until we drove them to extinction about 100 or so years ago.


Yeah, the Carolina one in there in North Carolina, Parakey, the Carolina parakeet.


Yep. It was just this gorgeous, green, beautiful parakeet that was native to the United States. And I saw something. So, you know, passenger pigeons were also famously driven to extinction.


The last Carolina parakeet died in the same cage that the last passenger pigeon Martha died in at the Cincinnati Zoo to the Cincinnati Zoo, had the honor of keeping captive the last passenger pigeon on the last Carolina parakeet and killing them right there.


This one zookeeper who is in charge of strangling the last one to get it over with because they couldn't couldn't stand the tension any longer.


Well, you know, they like to get it over with.


Oh, I've got a joke that so I'm not going to tell because I would upset bird lovers who tell me later. I'll tell you later, OK?


So these parrots, they mainly stay up in the trees. Obviously, they do come down if they are going to drink something. And sometimes if they need to find something to eat, if they can't get it up there and they generally do this kind of follow the humans patterns of kind of hanging out and doing the stuff during the day and sleeping at night, unless you're a kakapo or a night parrot. And they are nocturnal, which is, I think, the only two of the species.


What's neat about those kakapos? Who is they? From being nocturnal? The eyes have migrated from the sides of their heads toward the front of their face, and they've developed this kind of puffy feathers around their eyes. So they're also known as the owl parrot because they've started to kind of resemble the owl. And the owl is typically nocturnal as well.


Are you going to get a kakapo? I think I might actually. There's only 150 left and I could probably be arrested. But at the very least, I'm going to give it a shot, you know?


So they are omnivores and they will generally eat seeds and nuts and plants and fruits and things, some insects. But if they need to eat, you know, it's going to do what it's going to do. This is crazy. And this is you know, this can cause problems. I think the African grey can feast on corn, which has caused problems with corn crops in part in New Zealand. This is the crazy part in the kind of mid eighteen hundreds in New Zealand Keys keets were discovered to be.


And this is sort of horrifying, eating sheep and attacking sheep in the middle of the night. Yes, well, I guess it was in the middle of the night because they're not they're not nocturnal. But in my mind, it's a horror movie and it's happens in the middle of the night.


To me, the most the like the middle of the day makes things even more horrific. Sure, things aren't bad. Things aren't supposed to happen. The it was to happen at night in the woods, you know. Good point.


Not not in the middle of a field in the day. So seeing some parrots attack and eat a sheep in the middle of the day, that's bad news. But those things actually they look a lot like eagles, more so than parrots to me. So you give them a pass. Yeah, that's fine.


What I'd like to see I'd like to see them all try to carry off a sheep together with teamwork, you know, but I don't think that's how it goes.


Well, there's your cartoon. Mm hmm. That's like a Zygi cartoon.


I think they've I think they put parrot repellent on because, you know, they back in the day, they would just kill them all and let God sort them out. That's what happened to the Carolina parakeet.


Yeah, exactly. But they you know, eventually they were like, we can't just kill these keys. Like we're a more evolved, you know, humankind at this point. And we got to stop this stuff. We've got to protect them. So they've looked for ways to to keep from having to do that.


And one of them is that parrot repellant on the sheep's bellies, which it's probably like that stuff you try on your fingernails to keep from biting them.


I used to coat my fingers in that, but you just slather in a sheep's belly and call it a day. Yeah, it's very bitter. One thing I did want to add when you were talking about their range and they can end up and we are places I remember when we would do commercial shoots in Pasadena, California, and we would have the unlucky parrot location, which is basically anywhere in Pasadena on. Any given day, you could be near a bunch of parrots making a ton of noise and you can't shoot, you know how it is with sound like you can't you can't pay the guy to turn off his blower or his lawnmower.


That guy near. But you can't.


Yeah, I want two hundred and really put me on free rein at the craft services table.


But yeah, those those Pasadena parrots, they have disrupted many of film shoot so.


Yeah. So you're like, well wait a minute, there's not native parrots in the United States. How are there a bunch of parrots in the trees in Pasadena? Well, people let their parents go or people die in their parents escape or what have you. And like I was saying before, it's like they're really resilient. And once they start forming breeding pairs, even though they have like a really low reproduction rate, as we'll see in a second, they they can they can survive.


They can make new niches for themselves, which is pretty cool. But they're all there's there's a lot in Florida, Texas and California. I think every kind of species that has a population is supported in all three of those states. Right.


In the Connecticut one is just that's a very weird thing. Yeah.


In Chicago's Hyde Park, too. It's like the roof caves in on people's houses in the winter in Chicago. There's so much snow and it's so cold, like, how are Paris surviving? But apparently they do.


It's crazy. Yeah. So they live and this is this is pretty great. This is where stuff you should know things intersect. Our love of collections and groupings of animals. Sounds of assemblage. Yeah.


Pandamonium of parrots is what it's called for good reason like I said, because they are super noisy and can be aggravating in large numbers. When they're out in the wild and they live together, they help each other out, they feed with each other, they look out for each other, they keep track of each other and they communicate with each other. All those squawks and screams that you hear when a bunch of when a pandemonium is gathered is them talking to each other.


And they might be saying, you know, film crew or they might be saying snake or monkey like, look out.


Yeah. I also have the impression from spending hours and hours of watching beautiful parrots of all types sing and be happy that that they're just basically sharing how they're feeling at any given point sometimes to and that a lot of times it's real positive. You know, they're talking about how great things are. Beautiful the day is.


I could be anthropomorphizing, but it really, really seems that way.


You just seem like kind of a happy, happy type of animal.


I'm like, I want to buy into that, too. I'm with you. Just go ahead. It's like prove me wrong. I'll give you 10 years. And in those in that 10 year span, I'll enjoy these periods for what I think they're doing.


I agree. I mean, we all laughed at humor early on and now she's got that lamb following her around.


Right. Like miracles can happen. We have to get some of that that nail-biting stuff to slather on the lamb's belly in case it runs into some keys.


So they mate and they have little babies. They are generally monogamous. And males and females work together to raise the kid and to care for the little baby. From the moment that it's an egg, they will sit on it for 18 to 30 days and even take turns. I think the mom usually does most of the sitting while the male goes out and get some food. But the male can also be like, why don't you. Why don't you stretch your legs?


You stretch your toes. You get about this time.


Yeah, exactly. So yeah, but for the most part, the male gets the food or something like that, but the lovebirds also are like famously monogamous and they so much so that when they're separated, when a breeding pair is separated, when they're brought back together, first of all, they'll start to like lose energy and get real depressed and sad. And then when they're brought back together, they reform their bond by feeding one another with their beak.


That's very cute. Isn't that sweet? Yeah, I kind of have a thing for love birds now. They're just super cute and pretty.


It's so you know what you know what? Birds are not monogamous.


Which one's casual sex birds. You're right. Rob Lowe. Birds. Yeah, but good for them, you know.


So sure, they're just out there doing their thing, not hurting anybody as long as they're up front about what they're in there for.


You know, Rob Lowe, is this from his sex scandal from like 35 years ago? No, I just think of Rob Lowe is like being difficult to pin down and, you know, love in life have having a good time just doing his thing. That's what I think.


He's really worked to change that image over the past three decades. He really has not with me, but I recognize what he's been trying to do.


Okay. Famous Lothario Rob Lowe.


So well, I also dated myself because I would say a good third of our listeners are like, who's this Rob Lowe guy?


It's like Parks and Rec, right? Oh, yeah, that's right. He was. So they might know them. Yeah, I was going to say it's like Mad Magazine making fun of Spiro Agnew when we were little. And we're like, who? Who is the Spiro Agnew right to us?


Rob Lowe is the sax player from St.. Almost Fire. Sure. Who made a sex tape to them. He's the happy dad and Parks and Rec guy.


I also think of him as literally dude from West Wing.


I don't remember what his character's name was. No need to email. I can look it up myself.


I never saw that show. Oh, you didn't. It's good.


I think you'd like it. All right.


Even if you don't like Aaron Sorkin, you'd like West Wing. He's a little wordy for me.


Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah, a little. A little over the top. Every single second of every single show. But West Wing was his. It was it just worked perfectly for him. Yeah. I don't want to knock Aaron Sorkin.


I'll just say he has a fondness for typing.


But so there is this one. This one. This one. Rob Lowe sketch on Saturday Night Live. I know we've talked about before, but remember when Aaron Sorkin was busted with mushrooms in the airport now? So that news came out on a week when Rob Lowe is hosting STARIGHT Live. So they did one of those famous like walk and talk shots from the West Wing and in the background suddenly, suddenly converts from like the West Wing that they're walking through now.


They're being chased in a black and white movie by a giant like iguana. And so they're still walking, talking about, you know, the administration of the president, but they're also kind of jogging, running away, looking behind them at the right giant iguana is really, really great stuff.


So how many breaks have we take in, Charles? This one, do you want to take another one or keep going a little more? I think maybe. Let's wait one minute.


Let's talk about their intelligence and altruism. And I think that's those are two lovely topics.


Well, before we do that, I've got one more thing about mating. So they actually when they reproduce, they'll they'll lay between like two and eggs at a time in their incubation period can be really fast, like eighteen days, thirty days. But they also usually only have a couple of chicks survive and they spend a lot of time and energy raising their young almost to a humanlike degree, not, not for eight years, but for up to like four years.


In some cases, the the offspring, the chicks will, you know, grow up with the parents. So they actually have a very low reproductive rate. So it's a big problem when humans come along and, yeah, you know, kill off their populations because they're slow to recover. They're. Slow to reproduce, so just put that that little pin in your hat and smoke it. I just can't get that one right these days.


So parents are super smart, like we talked about. And there are a couple of really great examples of how and how they display this. And one is, is they can use tools like they have seen parents use sticks to like scratch their heads and stuff like that. This one is amazing. They found that cockatoos have been observed using sticks to drum on logs as part of a courtship sort of mating ritual because nothing women love more than a drum solo.


You know, I know it really just every woman alive thinks a drum solo is the greatest musical thing you can do.


That's usually when I go to the bathroom to truth be told.


Yeah, I mean, it's a hats off, but yeah, it's kind of whatever. They don't happen much anymore. No, you don't see those. But the one that knocked my socks off, Chuck was there's at least Oh the greater Vaasa parrot.


They will use the little pebbles or whatever to grind up seashells and the male does this in the male will eat the seashell and regurgitate it into like this vomited calcium rich paste as an offering to a pair of females trying to mate with, which sounds gross and weird until you realize that other birds eat calcium rich shells or chew on them or whatever to to strengthen the shells of their own eggs. But parrots are the only known birds to actually use tools to grind the shells up to make them easier to digest.


And the males offering it to the woman is like a basically like, hey, look at how well I'm taking care of you and our kid. I'm regurgitating seashells for you that I'm grinding up. That's astounding tool use. Like you just do not see that elsewhere except in like maybe primates here. There.


Well, I mean, if you want to talk about cool, their altruism is something that you don't see much in the animal kingdom at all. Very few non-human species show this trait. And no birds before just a couple of years ago were even on this list. They even tested crows out because they're super smart, I think in 2015. And they gave them an altruism test and they're like, nope, you guys failed the test, but they did this.


And this was from just January of last year in current biology, ironically, just a couple of months before the coronaviruses.


They don't have anything to talk about this. Exactly. They're doing some important work. And they did this exercise where they got these birds together, these parrots, and they put them in pairs and they basically put a wall between them with a hole and they were separated and one of them had a token and one of them had that you would trade for food, but one of them didn't. One of them had the food and one of them had the tokens.


So these birds literally figured out how to work together to exchange. Like here you take this token because you've got the food. All right, feed yourself. But remember me, if the roles are ever reversed.


Right. Which is a totally different thing. It's a reciprocity. So these these macaws showed that it was that the African grey I think the African grey is the one that passed.




And they're typically known as possibly the smartest birds of all time. But like, in addition to like here you go. Have this have like take this token and get yourself some food. Even though I'm not getting anything back when the when the roles were reversed, the birds would do the same thing. So they would get their turn basically later on. And so, yeah, you have altruism and reciprocity tool use. They're also very famous for mimicry too, which a lot of birds can mimic sounds.


I saw a video of a minor bird in the wild, I guess, being filmed with a camera as well as a video camera because it made an exact sound of a digital camera taking a picture. It was astounding. It sounded like they dubbed the sound of a camera over this bird.


I wonder about that on some of these videos. This is I mean, I hope it was legit. I mean, it was it looked like a legit wildlife video, a clip from one. But a lot of birds can do that. But the thing is, other birds can't do. What parrots can do is like their mimicry is a whole different level compared to other birds. And they're basically the only bird we know of that can mimic a human voice.


I think that's a great place for a cliffhanger. Right. Sure. All right, we'll come back and we'll talk more about mimicry right after this one to learn about terrorism and how to take a bird's eye view. But all about fractals is gone. That's the Lizzie Borden murders and the kind of all runs on the plane. Everything to your brain explodes. Just the stuff you should know. Word of Jerry. When General Motors says they aim to put everyone in an electric vehicle, they mean everyone.


That's right. There is a whole new generation of people who will soon plug in their vehicles as naturally as they charge their phones.


Yeah, people who will choose to emit optimism, not exhaust. They don't judge cars by the rev of an engine, Chuck, but by the hum of progress. How great is that? That's great.


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All right, so we're back and we're talking about birds vocalizing and mimicking things, they have voices that vary by region, which is really neat. They have different dialects, basically. And if a parrot moves to a new area where they have a different kind of dialect, they will adjust, you know, what Julia refers to as their accents to fit in, which is really, really amazing. Yeah, it is amazing.


And I was reading up on a study about that, Chuck, and they found that a bird that lives like these dialects will be kind of regional, but some regions, but up against one another. So if you're in a nest that is adjacent to two regions, they'll kind of use it. They'll go back and forth. And they found like the differences in the basic structure of the calls are different enough that that they're dialectical. But then within these nests, there's different variations, slighter variations within the dialect.


So like they're they're communicating to some really astounding degrees. And like I was saying that, you know, parrots in particular are the only ones smart enough to mimic humans. And one of the reasons that they do this is they're able to manipulate their tongue, which is one of the things that we do to produce speech. So they're not just. They're not just mimicking sound like they're actually forming words very similarly to how humans do. They are also capable of hitting like pitches, lower pitches that are more in step with how the human voice sounds.


So it sounds more like a human that they're mimicking, but then also they seem to have an additional layer in their brain and the region of their brain that they used to to mimic the other animals don't have the other birds don't have, which implies that they're just smart enough to do this, too. Yeah.


So I had a cockatiel. Oh, Pepper. Everybody had a cockatiel. When I was a kid. I was like, I mean, I feel like we had this bird for a few years, but I was definitely in the, you know, 10, 11, 12 year old range. And our little grey cockatiel was named Dolly. And I, you know, knew that you could teach cockatiels to say things. So I was my brother and I were all over this.


You know, no one else in the family really cared. But we got a record to teach us how to do this. And it involves tons and tons of repetition. You can't just go up to a bird and teach it to say something a couple of times and they'll do it right. It requires a lot of repetition.


And so we taught by the end, Dolly could say hello and hello, Dolly and Dolly could do the wolf whistle like, oh yeah.


Like when someone walked in the room, Dolly learned to do the charged and air.


And then the one I was most proud of is I taught Dolly to do the work of coo coo coo coo coo like a jungle bird mount.


And it was my favorite thing that Dolly could do. So Dolly would sit on my shoulder and like kind of nibble at my earlobes and watch TV and stuff and peck at my hair. And that was sort of the extent of it. It was a tremendous mess. And, you know, we're I guess we can go and talk about that. If you have a bird, it's feathers and poop and seeds everywhere.


Yeah, well, because when you have a parrot, you're supposed to give it a lot of time outside of the cage, which will we'll talk a little more extensively about that. But yes, they're a big mess for sure. But Dolly, learning to talk was one of the coolest things I did as a kid.


And people love to hear parrots say things. They if you go and type parrot into YouTube, the third thing that comes down is the next offering is parrots cursing.


Because it's just funny, people want to see a parent tell someone to, you know, buzz off, buzz off if you're lucky, if they haven't lived in a frat house for a few years round, more often than not, they just straight up curse. And every once in a while you'll see a story about some parents. I had to be moved from like a wildlife preserve because they were cursing at like the people who came by to see them or whatever and teaching little kids bad manners.


I mean, they're all kinds of videos. It's very fun. Kids ask your parents if you can watch parrot talking videos because some of them curse if there are some funny ones, too, with parrots and Alexis talking to Alexa. And I think one of them, there was a parrot that the lady, the owner went back and ordered or was checking on things that were ordered because this parrot would order Stoya and the parrot kept trying to order a fart.


What it was like, I don't know.


I mean, she said, what's on the shopping list? And like I said, birdseed fart.


All right. It's pretty great. I want to know what Alexa would imagine that to be.


Well, I mean, I think if you say to burp or fart, they'll do it, right?


I don't know. I haven't tried that. But I'm going to right after this. You really haven't. No, I haven't been very impressed.


I'm 44 years old and I've never tried that. All right.


Well, I'm almost 50, so you'll come back around and think it's funny again.


You know what's funny, Chuck? You have mastered one of the, I think, 60 things that the Kamasutra says every person should master before they die, and that is to train a parrot to talk is one of. And then that's in the Kamasutra. Yeah, I had no idea I ran across that.


So we can't talk about parrots and especially talk about parrot intelligence and not talk about Alex the parrot, which we have talked about before. He showed up in our House Zero Works episode because he's as far as anyone knows, the I think if not the only bird, possibly the only other non-human animal who's demonstrated a grasp of the concept of zero, that's a really weird concept that that most non humans can't grasp or possibly any other non humans can't grasp.


Alex could. Which kind of goes to show you what a smart parrot he was.


Yeah, I think they figured in the end Alex was about as smart as a five year old person and not from like the depth of vocabulary.


Alex knew about 100 words, which is sounds like a lot compared to Dolly. But I think the Guinness Record is a parakeet named Puck who learned about seventeen hundred words and change. So one hundred is good. But Alex could understand concepts like bigger and smaller and same and different. Yeah.


And would make up his own word combinations like I think the first time Alex a cake. Alex called it yummy bread.


Right. Which is really pretty astounding and maybe kind of scary.


He supposedly is the first animal to ask an existential question, which he saw himself in the mirror and he asked what color? And so his his handler and researcher, Irene Pepperberg, who wrote many, many papers from the 70s to the early 2000s about Alex, whose name it turns out is an acronym for Avian Language Experiment.


Oh, a little saddened by that. You know, like the robot whose name is like an acronym for some science, he just kind of dehumanizing. But Alex, he asked, like, what color? And they took it to mean like he was asking about himself, like he recognized himself in the mirror. And apparently parrots frequently talk about themselves in third person like that, that parrot or that parakeet puck like Ricky Anderson held.


Right. Right. Who held the the the record for the most words. He talked about himself in third person and apparently he once said it's Christmas and that he was happy about it being Christmas and loved everybody. That's great. Yeah, but I mean, it's like that's pretty intelligent if this parrot understands, what, that it's Christmas Day and everybody's happy that he loves everybody.


But it's a I'm I'm just impressed with parrots. In addition to being cute, they also have brains, brains and looks. That's right.


So I think we got to at least talk about the notion of pirates having pirates. It is not necessarily just a movie trope or a book trope from literature. It makes sense in a way they may have wanted when they're out at sea. Some companionship. Having a dog or a cat or a goat or lamb following you around on a ship isn't a great idea. Like a bird kind of makes sense. And they could eat the hardtack in the crackers and and sip on the rum.


And it makes sense to have birds. They were they were they were going places where they might have been like, I don't know if there's any hard evidence, but nothing about it. Seems like there's no way that could have been true.


No, what I saw was that that that's possibly the case. But that the age of Discovery was the second time that Europe fell in love with parrots as pets and that the initial trend started when Alexander the Great invaded India and took some parrots back to Greece with them. And they ended up spreading to Europe. And actually, the Alexandrine parrot is named after Alexander the Great because it's apparently one of the ones that he brought back with them. And then paresis, I guess, fell out of fashion.


And then when people started going to Brazil and coming back from Brazil, they came back with parrots on their shoulders and the trend started again. I love it. I did mention that they were there, not the easiest part to take care of. They are messy, they are demanding, they're pretty needy. They need lots of attention. If they don't get it, they can be kind of disruptive and destructive. I'm not trying to talk anyone out of getting a bird, but it's a lot to want to bite off if you've never had one.


Oh, yeah, yeah. No, I mean, like even even more of a commitment, I would think, than say, like getting a dog, not just because of the enormous amount of attention that they need from you, but they're really long live too.


Like that's the deal.


Much longer lived than than a dog or a cat like like in in the wild. Parrots typically live maybe 30 years. I think the the the kakapo kakapo lives possibly 90 years in the wild.


But in captivity, parrots really live for a long time, 40, 50, 60 years. There is a Major Mitchell's cockatoo named Cookie that's the oldest living documented parrot in captivity. He lived to 83, I think.


Yeah, like you, you often see parrots in people's wills because you have to pass them along to somebody. And yeah, for the life of me, I don't know what happened to Dolly. We had Dolly for a few years. I it's just kind of one of those things. When you're a kid, sometimes you have pets that just go away and your parents are like they're on the farm now.


They're like Dolly who stop asking questions through stuff.


Yeah. Let's never speak of Dolly again. Dolly may have gotten out. I don't know.


But that happens. I mean, they they escape sometimes. I mean, you miss grandma outlived her and they went to live with one of her friends who keeps birds. So. Yeah, yeah. I mean, like, they're really long live pets. But part of the reason why they think that there are or why they know there are feral parrot populations around the United States is because people people just let them go. They're like, I can't I had no idea what I was getting into.


Just fly free parrot. I'm sorry that we ever met. It's like flushing that baby python down the toilet a little bit, a little bit, actually, but the thing is, is it's kind of so it's good on the one hand that that just doesn't automatically kill the parrot that they can actually they might find at a local population that they can join.


They might find another one and start a local population as a breeding pair. It's not like a death sentence to parents like you should never, you know, just release your pet into the wild. That's just bad juju. But if you do with the parrot, it's not it's not a death sentence, is what I'm saying. One of the bigger problems of that is that you have still placed a demand on the bird market. Yes. And the bird market is not like there's not some nice family in, you know, the central rural part of your state that breeds parrots.


And that's where all the parrots come from. The parrots that you get typically have been stolen from a nest in Brazil and brought to the United States. I saw something like 800000 parrot chicks a year are removed from nests to feed the demand of the exotic bird market. And a lot of them don't survive. They die on the way. And as I was saying before, the reproductive rate of parrots is low enough that once you get enough chicks removed from their native habitat, they're not getting replaced fast enough.


And then that leads to a collapse of the population and it can mean extinction if that happens across a large enough range.


Yeah, and there are plenty countries, including the United States, that have done pass legislation to try and put a dent in this importing and poaching and stuff. But at the beginning of this year, there was a study in Global Change Biology that said that a third parrot species are threatened with extinction. I think one hundred and seventy one of the species are near threatened or critically endangered. The kakapo that you talked about, you mentioned that there are only like 150 of those left.


Yeah, I really don't want the kakapo to go extinct. Luckily, there are new in New Zealand and New Zealand loves nature, so they're in a good spot. Yeah, that's true, that's a good point, yeah. Are they trying to breed them at least? I think they're protecting the heck out of them and this leaving them to breed amongst themselves. They live on three isolated remote islands. They don't have any introduced predators. So they they're they're they're in a precarious place, but they're about as good a place as they could be for the precarious state they're in.


Yeah. And it's you know, it's not just people poaching, it's humans encroaching with developments and, you know, less and less natural habitat. It's obviously, you know, the repercussions of climate change when things like the Australian wildfires break out, it's a reduction of habitat and the poaching that's kind of put a real dent in the parrot population. Yeah.


So they're saying, well, you know, there's they've actually identified some hot spots of parrot biodiversity around the world that said, like, OK, if these places if the governments in these places, like, moved to protect parrots, parrots are going to be OK. So like the northeastern Andes, the Atlantic Forest that stretches from Brazil inland and Argentina and Paraguay, if these places can can protect the parrots, their parents should be fine.


So hopefully they will. And then on the the the demand side, if Europe and Japan will kind of get over their love of parrots or figure out a different way to get parrots a more sustainable way, then that would have a big effect, too.


Are they two of the biggest offenders from what I saw? Yeah, because their act in 1990 to the US passed poaching in half from what I could tell. So it was like a really big had a big impact. But Europe and Japan just continued on without that kind of legislation.


I think that's great. Well, not great for them, but great for us up with parents, everybody. And if you want to get a little pop of joy out of your day, watch this one minute video called Bird Sings in Synchrony with Piano. Incredible, cute. Three exclamation points. Not incredibly cute. It is one of the sweetest things I've seen in a while. And you'll be like, yep. Josh as birds can just be happy.


Little souls.


Yeah. Or birds cursing. That's fun to eat. Anything else then. Nothing else. Well, it's paradise, everybody. Like I said, go watch some pair videos. And in the meantime, it's time to listen to me.


I'm going to call this plugging another podcast so nice you don't often do this and it's not from professional envy or anything.


It was just we would be doing it all the time if we did it too much.


Okay. Yeah, nice one. Uh, hey, guys, my name is Vivek Gowa Geet.


You are. I've been listening to your show for the past six years. I'm a physiotherapist working in the suburbs of Delhi, and part of my job is provide domiciliary care where I have to go see my patients at their houses and therefore need to drive every day.


You're one of my favorite podcasts to listen to.


And I listen, you guys, almost every day when I am driving through the chaotic traffic, it gave me some something worthwhile to listen to. It's interesting and I like your humor, humorous conversational style. I wish after covid to get over, you would do a live show in New Delhi someday.


Man, how about that? Yeah, maybe. Think we could draw a crowd, a crowd of one at least. Yeah. The will be there. Yeah. I just want to know that someone is listening to you guys every day from the other side of the globe and you inspired me to launch my own podcast. Nice. If you would please.


Shout out to the Veck Gowa Physiotherapist podcast. That is Viveka. You are a physiotherapist podcast, although it's in English which is Hindi in English. You guys will not understand the majority of it lol. But keep doing what you're doing best, which is that is Vivek.


Thanks a lot of Harvick and good luck on your podcast. That was very nice of you to plug it, Chuck.


Yeah. Check it out if you speak English and we'll see you in New Delhi someday. Don't know when, but someday. Sure. And if you want to get in touch with us, like vivisected, you can send us an email to stuff, podcasts and I heart radio dot com.


Stuff you should know is a production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts, my heart radio is the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. Me, me, me, me, me, but also you, the payroll fast forwards, his favorite foreign film, Powdered Donut. OK, what's my line?


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