Canberra musk duck Ripper captured swearing like humans in Carel ten Cate's research

It's not uncommon for people going through Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to hear the sounds of multiple bird calls throughout the bush.

But new international research has revealed one of Tidbinbilla's bird species has been known to imitate human speech, even being recorded as swearing.

A recording of a musk duck named Ripper in Tidbinbilla has captured the bird mimicking sounds such as slamming doors and even words such as "you bloody fool".

The recordings were captured by Canberran Peter Fallugar in 1987 and 2000, but have been unearthed by Dutch researchers as part of a new study on bird vocalisations.

The bird noises were recorded during a mating display by the musk duck.

It's understood the bird heard the phrase "you bloody fool" from his caretaker, but the research did not know when the species was first exposed to the noises themselves, due to many of the documents in Tidbinbilla being lost during the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

The research showed Ripper was roughly four-years-old when he was recorded making noises like a door and swearing.

"It is not known at what age Ripper was transferred to an outdoor pond, but it is most likely that he may not have been exposed to the door sound for more than a few weeks, quite early in life," the research paper said.

"Unfortunately, it is not known at what age Ripper produced imitations for the first time, but this might have been after several years."

The new study has shown the vocal imitations done by the bird is similar to that of other species such as songbirds and parrots.

The study noted that other instances of this mimicry has occurred after extensive social interactions or bonds between the bird, which is often hand-reared, and the source of the noise.

"It might well be that the different vocalisations relate to different levels of arousal, as has been mentioned for the visual displays," the study said.

As part of the research, Dutch scientist Carel ten Cate said the recordings helped to support the theory that vocalisations in birds happened in several groups independently, rather than all evolving at once with several losses.

Current findings have not detected any mimicry of human sounds in other goose-like species.

The report offered one theory why musk ducks make the vocalisations, due to them having longer social contact with their mothers compared with other similar species.

"Musk ducks produce only a few offspring at a time, which rely on maternal feeding until almost fully grown," the study said.

"As a result, an isolated hand-reared musk duck, such as Ripper, most likely forms a strong attachment to a human caretaker."

The findings have been published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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An example of a musk duck, which has been captured on audio as making human noises. Picture: Supplied

An example of a musk duck, which has been captured on audio as making human noises. Picture: Supplied

This story 'You bloody fool': The Australian bird with a taste for fowl language first appeared on The Canberra Times.