Tue, Feb 27, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Loquacious parrot swears his way into people's hearts

By Hung Ting-hung  /  STAFF REPORTER

When the owners of the Yuhung Betel Nut Stand in Kaohsiung's Linyuan Township (林園鄉) made the decision to spend NT$26,000 (US$788) on an African grey parrot for their store, they were looking for a pet that could become like a child to them.

Little did they know, however, that the bird would take such a strong liking to the family business.

Customers don't need to ask the price of a pack of betel nut or a can of beer, as Pika has learned to shout them out as soon as they walk through the door.

He also serves as a watchdog, ruffling his feathers and stamping in circles around his perch to scare off strangers.

But Pika hasn't put all of his unusual intelligence to such productive use.

He is also notorious among customers and neighbors for having learned to swear like a trooper.

He has shown a proclivity for absorbing all the Taiwanese profanity not fit for print that might be overheard at a betel nut stand, so that now customers can expect to get not just betel nuts when they visit the shop, but also a torrent of verbal abuse.

Pika has a special talent for hurling insults and discouragement at people playing the lottery, which has led to the occasional threat by more than one disappointed gambler that he might be delicious if served roasted.

But most people in the community have been able to forgive most of the bird's crude manners and policemen from the local station regularly pass by so that they can wave hello.

Pika has also learned to yell "registered mail" when he sees the mailman approaching on his motorcycle, sometimes from as far as 20m away.

And any sensitive customers who are offended by coarse language had better get used to it or find somewhere else to go for a chew; Pika is only six years old, and African gray parrots can live to more than 50 years of age.

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