Parrots, songbirds, and even hummingbirds have famously been known to mimic human speech, but until now, no other avian species had been documented exhibiting the same behavior. That all changed when an Australian musk duck began yelling what appeared to be English words in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
According to researchers, this is the first documented case of a duck mimicking human language. The duck, a male named Ripper, was actually first recorded three decades ago, but the recording has only just come to the attention of researchers. Ripper’s signature phrase, which is a bit too vulgar for us to repeat here on The Optimist Daily, is believed to have been learned from his caregiver.
Although unique in his repetition of English phrases, Ripper isn’t the only duck who mimics. Other dicks on the reserve have been known to mimic each other and a duck in Pensthorpe Natural Park in the UK has been observed mimicking nearby horses.
This discovery solidifies previous findings that mimicry in avian species seems to have evolved independently in different areas of the world. Although researchers aren’t quite sure what implications this will have for language study, it does offer interesting insights into how vocal patterns and language develop in non-human species.
Source study: The Royal Society – Vocal imitations and production learning by Australian musk ducks