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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Birds - The Grey Parrot

( Originally Published 1894 )

The Grey Parrot though less attractive in colour than other species, is perhaps the most popular of the parrot family on account of its superior accomplishments as an imitator of familiar sounds. Mr. Jesse secured from a lady friend a description of the performances of a grey parrot which resided at Hampton Court, from which we quote the following: " Her laugh is quite extraordinary, and it is impossible not to help joining in it, more especially when in the midst of it she cries out, `Don't make me laugh so; I shall die, I shall die!' and then continues laughing more violently than before. Her crying and sobbing are curious; and if you say, `Poor Poll, what is the matter?' she says, `So bad, so bad; got such a cold;' and after crying some time, will gradually cease, and making a noise like drawing a long breath, say, ` Better now,' and begins to laugh." "If any one happens to cough or sneeze, she says, ` what a bad cold.. She calls the cat very plainly, saying, `puss, puss,' and then answers `mew'; but the most amusing part is, that whenever I want to make her call it, and to that purpose say, `puss, puss', myself she always answers, `mew', till I begin mewing; and then she begins calling `puss', as quickly as possible. She imitates every kind of noise, and barks so naturally, that I have known her to set all the dogs on the parade of Hampton Court barking, and the consternation I have seen her cause in a party of cocks and hens, by her crowing and chuckling, has been the most ludicrous thing possible. She sings just like a child and I have more than once thought it was a human being; and it is most ludicrous to hear her make what one would call a false note and then say, `oh la!' and burst out laughing at herself, beginning again in quite another key. She is very fond of singing 'Buy a Broom', which she says quite plainly, but if we say, with a view to make her repeat it, `Buy a Broom', she always says `Buy a Brush', and then laughs as a child might do when mischievous. She often performs a kind of exercise which I do not know how to describe, except by saying that it is like the lance exercise. She puts her claw behind her, first on one side and then on the other, then in front, and round over her head; and whilst doing so, keeps saying, `Come on, come on!' and when finished she says `Bravo, beautiful,' and draws herself up."

To deny the parrot the understanding of what it says, is to relieve it of the responsibility of using bad language, and offering unsound advice, and this it surely needs. A gentleman who was in the habit of kissing his parrot and then kissing his wife, before leaving home in the morning, taught the bird to say, on being kissed, "Now kiss the missus," with the result that most of the gentlemen visitors who took any notice of the parrot were recommended to salute the lady of the house. Another parrot whose cage occupied a. window close to a fashionable church continually accosted the passers-by, by calling out "That's right! Go to church, keep up appearances." Such remarks must often be very embarrassing, as must have been the words and actions of a parrot who frequently called out "Who kissed the pretty girl?" and then gave a perfect imitation of the sound of several kisses in succession. Perhaps no more aggravating use was ever made of a parrot's powers than that witnessed by Buffon, who says, " I have seen a parrot very ridiculously employed, belonging to a distiller who had suffered pretty severely in his circumstances from an informer who lived opposite him. This bird was taught to pronounce the ninth commandment, `Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,' with a very clear, loud, articulate voice. The bird was generally placed in a cage over against the informer's house, and delighted the whole neighbourhood with its persevering exhortations."

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