Hard as it is to believe, this is not the droid you’re looking for…
Meet “Bluey,” an Australian parakeet with a pension for “boo-boo-beep-boop.” The tiny bird (also known as a budgie) picked up his astromech antics after listening to YouTube videos with owner Carley Jeffrey.
“We were blown away that he picked it up so quickly,” she recalls. “Bluey was our first budgie and our seven-year old daughter hand-raised him. He has always been a curious bird, he was really intrigued by our voices and the cockatoos we have in our garden—he even copied the noise the crested pigeons make when they take off. We played R2-D2 sounds and a few days later our daughter came running in saying he was doing R2. After that we almost regretted teaching him because he would not shut up!”
This isn’t the first time a pet bird has wowed us with geeky sing-song (remember Princess Yellow Feather, the parrot that sings “Everything is Awesome”?), but Bluey’s droid impression is by far one of our favorites – he’s even dressed for the part.
Like all birds, parakeets lack true vocal chords, but rather “speak” by directing the airflow to a sound-producing organ called the syrinx. In many songbirds, the tiny organ is no larger than a raindrop, but it’s extremely efficient because it uses nearly all the air that passes through. For comparison, when you exhale, less than five percent of the air will be used by your voice box. This allows birds to mimic a wide range of pitches and tones.
An extensive vocabulary can do more for a pet bird than amuse the internet; just ask this parakeet, who was returned home after he told police his home address and phone number!
But why mimic in the first place? This all has to do with songbirds’ aptitude for vocal learning, meaning they can develop new sounds based on experience. In the wild, birds of a feather talk together. In fact, individual groups have been known to form unique dialects. This is mirrored in captivity, except a bird’s human housemates become part of the flock, and the sounds of the household become the flock-calls.
“Bluey also loves making lazer sounds, the R2-D2 scream sound [wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!], kissing sounds, and he whispers English jibberish, but we can only make out a few words,” says Jeffrey. “The other budgies in his cage started to copy him soon after.”
The lesson seems clear: when life gives you parakeets, teach them to Star Wars. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not teach them to Varactyl.
IMAGES: Carley Jeffrey/YouTube, Wikimedia Commons