Budgie parakeets > Talking birds

Talking birds

It is a commonly accepted fact that those ani­mals which approximated the nature of man in any particular have always proved of more in­terest to, him than any others. At the head of those among the birds may be ranked the tribe of parrots, as they imitate the human language the most exactly. There is a vast difference among different nations of men, as to the use of lan­guage; some are capable of uttering sounds which other nations cannot imitate.

For instance, there are some things in the English language which the Chinese cannot utter, and it is quite difficult for some -of the European nations to learn the English language; and they always retain a peculiar accent. It is possible that the horse and dog and some other animals may surpass the par­rots in intelligence or human sagacity, but they are denied the gift of speech. We are accus­tomed to regard speech as the most important advantage which man possesses over the inferior creation, as it distinguishes him from animals, and it cannot therefore fail to excite our admira­tion when we hear a bird utter human words.

It cannot be denied that most beasts have a language of their own, though it is very limited, but still they utter sounds which have a meaning to others of the sam-e species. We can often tell from the noise being made by a dog or by the domestic fowls what is troubling them. The hen calling to her brood to come for food is very different from her call in time of danger.

It is an established fact that parrots have been known, and their peculiarity of imitating the human language recognized, from almost the be­ginning of history.

Ctesias in his "Indica," written nearly 1oo years before Aristotle, described a bird under the name of Bittacus, which could speak an In­dian language. It was as big as a sparrow hawk, with a purple face and black beard, otherwise blue, green and vermilion in color; doubtless what is called in England a Blossom-headed Parrakeet, an inhabitant of various parts of India.

Doubtless the conquests of Alexander the Great in India were the means of introducing the parrot in various parts of Europe.

Pliny tells us that parrots were first met with in Africa by explorers employed by Nero, beyond the limits of upper Egypt. These birds were brought in great numbers to Rome; not only were they lodged in cages of tortoise shell and ivory, with silver wires, but they were esteemed as deli­cacies for the table, and one emperor is said to have fed his lions on them. In the voyages of dis­covery that began in the fifteenth century, and have continued uninterruptedly since then, it was found that whatever races of men in tropical or semi-tropical countries were visited by European navigators, that even the most savage tribes had tamed some kind of parrot.

Parrot selling was considered quite profitable by the natives of Central America, and large num­bers of them are brought in to the markets to be sold to the tourists. Along the sea coast the natives take a number of parrots in their boats and go out to meet the incoming vessels. The par­rots do not like to fly, but hold their positions on the gunwales of the boat, undisturbed by the rocking of the water, and chatter volubly heedless of the bargaining going on between their owners in the boat and the people on shipboard. Our illustration is a typical representation of the par­rot sellers of Corinto, where the natives come out in small boats to sell their wares. The tide in the harbor runs strong, and to any but the skilful natives the handling of a canoe in such troubled waters is a dangerous feat.

Taming the wild bird is an art in which the natives excel, and it, is known that the squaws can tame a parrot in the course of a few days; yes, even in a few hours, to such an extent that a stranger may handle the birds and pet them. The method employed is unknown, hut some state that the natives put their hands in water or some liquid preparation and stroke the birds over the back. Others claim that strong narcotics are used in the way of juices of medici­nal herbs.