Kolkata, India: In the first-ever reported instance of Australian duck species mimicking human speech, a specimen was heard saying “You bloody fool.”
This vocal learning ability is known in songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds, but this is the first thoroughly documented instance of musk ducks demonstrating it, experts have said.
According to a study released Monday, a hand-reared male named Ripper was caught replicating the words during mating, in an insane discovery.
While people are used to listening to birds like parrots, cuckoos, and other common species nearly closely mimicking human vocals in typical birdy accents, Ripper’s bad-mouth is insanely accurate and understandable (sound clip below).
The research was published in the Royal Society’s journal Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences.
Ripper, the extremely outspoken duck could have learned it from his caretaker, according to the study authors.
The study stated, “The Australian musk duck demonstrates an unexpected and impressive ability for vocal learning”.
The report also details how Ripper imitated the sound of a door opening and closing.
Many types of ducks and geese are bred in confinement, but no reports of them are there where they mimicked human noises, according to research author Carel ten Cate, who spoke to CNN on Tuesday.
It’s pretty rare to come across a species that appears to be capable of mimicking these sounds, he said.
Ripper was raised by hand at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra, Australia.
While some reports of musk ducks imitating human sounds were published in Australian bird journals, ten Cate explained that they were never shared with the scientific community studying vocal learning.
The recordings were made during mate-attractive performances that included sounds and physical actions like splashing in the water.
Ripper appeared to imitate the sound of a door a few meters from the sink where he was kept for a few weeks after his birth, as well as the phrase “You bloody foo” in the recordings.
According to ten Cate, the last word might be “fool” or “meal.”
“It’s in the ear of the beholder,” he explained, indicating that it was most likely a statement Ripper had heard from his caretaker several times.
A second male duck at Tidbinbilla appears to resemble a Pacific black duck in a separate clip from 2000.
According to the study, musk ducks inhabit two distinct locations in western and southern Australia.
Because adult males are prone to assaulting other waterfowl, these birds are rarely bred in captivity.
Two further examples of captive musk ducks replicating sounds in their habitat are described in the paper, but the birds were not recorded, thus the observations could not be independently validated.
According to ten Cate, wild musk ducks are unlikely to replicate human sounds, CNN reported.
“If you only recorded these animals in the field you wouldn’t realize that they were actually vocal learners and imitating one another, it’s just when they are reared under these special conditions,” he said.