I’ll watch or read just about any animal content that turns up in the timeline, but for my money, you can never go wrong with birds. They fly, they’re basically little dinosaurs and some of them are fiendishly smart. The intelligence of certain species can make for adorable dignity, as with the ravens at the Tower of London, lovingly documented by their longtime caretaker Christopher Skaife on Twitter. In the same city, however, an attempt this week to rescue a roof-bound Macaw parrot named Jessie revealed the other side of advanced avian cognition: To the firefighter who scaled the building and offered the suggested greeting, “I love you,” Jessie had only this to say: “Fuck off.”
That parrots curse out humans and will do so with gusto is an argument both for and against keeping them as pets. Fortunately, with the internet, you can experience their shrieking obscenities on your own terms, not every single night and day for the five decades or so a specimen of this sort may live.
It’s for that reason I hereby endorse the delightful corner of YouTube that exists to showcase the wordplay of incorrigibly naughty parrots and other birds.
I can’t tell you, for example, how many bad moods I’ve turned around by looking up videos of “Eric the Legend,” a bare-eyed cockatoo, or little corella, owned by an Australian couple. Eric has picked up a good deal of salty language from men watching soccer together in the house, and he’s become quite fluent. In his first notorious appearance, he declares himself a “fuckin’ legend” over and over, evidently for attacking the dog and scaring a neighbor’s cat.
Eric, per his humans, can be a “crazy fool” and “a horror,” whether he’s tossing out a jar of change coin by coin on a rainy day or just screaming about a “bastard cat” roaming around the backyard. From the other side of the planet, though, his brain-piercing squawks are pure entertainment. He’s throwing the tantrums and lobbing the insults that human decorum generally forbids, and whenever you feel like you’re close to blowing your stack, you can watch him lose his shit instead. A little quieter but no less cutting in her conversation is Ruby, an African grey parrot residing in England, who reacts to every stupid question the way you wish you could: with a casual “Shut up, you twat.”
It’s funny how we give birds license to be rude because “they don’t know better” when it seems, in so many cases, they amuse us because they know exactly what they’re saying. They bust balls, they shoot the breeze, and in the case of Pebble the Crazy Cockatoo, they go on dizzying, vulgar tirades that would make a sailor blush. They understand, at least, how to get our attention with naughty words — and then perform the kind of emotional outburst we’re constantly holding at bay ourselves. No other animal, however we anthropomorphize it, can verbally vent for us. Even the odd wild crow isn’t afraid to sneer “Fuck you” at a guy who declines to provide a few crumbs of bread to peck at:
It sounds strange, but I’m always soothed by footage of a caustic, cursing bird. Besides letting off a string of profanities, is there any other rational response to this world? And of course they’re mimicking our anger, parodying its absurdity and impotence, showing us how silly we are. For that, fair-feathered friends, I thank you.