The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
Victor the Talking Budgie
Status: In my opinion, a case of parrot pareidolia
image Victor is (or rather was) a budgie that, according to its owner, could speak in context. In other words, Victor could not only mimic words, as many birds can, but also carry on meaningful conversations. Victor has been a topic of discussion on the internet for over four years. However, I just became aware of him thanks to an email from Gretel Shuvzwichinstov. So here are the basic facts about Victor, as I understand them:

Victor belonged to Ryan Reynolds who, as he became aware that Victor was saying intelligible things, began to record him. Victor's conversations go something like this: Victor so cute. What will you do for Victor? Give me some carrot. I get lots of cheese, mmmm, cheese, cheese. So I talk too fast, so whatever! Reynolds has made many audio recordings of Victor available on his website. There are also videos of Victor speaking. Victor died in 2000, so it's impossible for anyone else to study him. Which is one of the reasons why a lot of people suspect Victor is simply an elaborate hoax concocted by Reynolds.

Another reason why this all might be a hoax is that budgies are not generally known for being able to carry on meaningful conversations. Also, Reynolds seems to be one of the very few people who can extract anything intelligible out of the weird noises Victor made. Though I can definitely catch the occasional word, most of Victor's squawks sound like something out of The Exorcist to me. I half suspect that if you played them backwards, you'd discover Victor was muttering Satanic curses in ancient Aramaic. If the Electronic Voice Phenomena advocates (the people who swear they can hear coffee pots talking to them) got hold of Victor, they would probably conclude he was channelling spirits from beyond.

In Reynolds' favor, he seems to passionately believe in Victor and, more generally, in the idea that birds possess the capacity for complex speech. He states that:

A majority of the people that come to this site embrace it for what it really is. A truthful study of a talking parrot that could speak in conversational language. However the claims that some make about it being a hoax are ridiculous and have no grounds whatsoever. Individuals who make these claims should understand that they are slandering me, especially if they say it in an open forum in writing. I do not take this lightly as I have worked very hard on these sites during the past few years to be libeled so unfairly.

So my hunch is that Reynolds is sincere (i.e. this isn't a deliberate hoax), but he's convinced himself there's something meaningful in a bird's random chatter. Making this an example of audio pareidolia.
Categories: AnimalsPareidolia
Posted by The Curator on Sun Oct 23, 2005
I've got four budgies. Two I purchased a month ago as babies and two I took in from a coworker last week. I haven't been a budgie owner for long enough to know much about them but I did own a cockateil for 15 years until he passed away last year. Sammy did not have a huge vocabulary but he was quite clever. He would wolf whistle to females who passed by his cage or took him out and only to females. He said "pretty bird" to family members and other humans that he loved but would squawk at strangers or people he didn't like. He also was able to say my name and he would yell it whenever he wanted me to come play with him.
Posted by Kathleen  on  Wed Apr 22, 2009  at  12:43 AM
The budgie research group is pretty crazy, they have recordings of birds that are obviously just chirping, not talking, such as http://brg.homestead.com/eddiebirdsmocking.html . Most of their recordings are obviously people talking, like this one: http://brg.homestead.com/babybirdbank1.html . On the other hand, if you watch the videos of Victor, you can see that he is actually talking, and he does know how to say a few things like "turn it off" after he is done talking, but most of what he is saying sounds like nonsense, and Ryan Reynolds translates a lot of the things he says to make it more complicated than something a bird could actually say. For example, he writes pity a lot instead of pretty. Another example is at 1:40 on this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-FNcKODtlY , where Reynolds made a complicated sentence out of his bird repeating "push board" and "push bird", though he did it very well, and his translation is almost reasonable. This video on the other hand, seems to show the bird forming actual sentences that make sense, without crazy translations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM_uWsDVHNY .
Posted by Gordon Grady  in  Condon, OR  on  Fri May 29, 2009  at  05:02 PM
I checked out the baby bird homestead link, I have to say to me it does sound like a bird talking. I doubt the translation is totally accurate, but there are bird noises in there that are too genuine, the rhythm is too similar to that of a budgie talking, for me to believe it's a human.

I agree about the recordings that are just chirpings translated to words. That baffles me. But, regardless of how well a budgie forms words, they do communicate, like all pets communicate. Isn't that why we have them---because they are living things that have real relationships to us? Anyone who has had a dog knows how real a dog's love and adoration is.

We live among mysterious creatures, and just knowing them is a learning experience every day. I try to learn my birds' language rather than insisting they learn mine; but even with the language barrier, they manage to convey quite well what they want and what they're thinking. Each of my budgies, though all non talkers now, is quite intelligent and always interested to interact with me. They are fascinating.
Posted by lolana  on  Fri May 29, 2009  at  06:11 PM
Gordon mentioned that some of my translations sound like nonsense and are incorrect. When it comes to Victor's videos and recordings, many have changed over the years as my skills evolved. Victor talked so fast and some of his speech was not easy to translate because of the quality of the recordings. I never did claim to be 100% accurate, but I try to get as close as I can. When it comes to the other budgies that are not very clear, that is a little different and I rely on tones and chirps in many cases to hear the words. I have been at this for 10 years now and I have adapted to their language and most people cannot hear what I do when they speak, so it probably does sound like nonsense to them. Anyway, I just started a new section on myspace with the newest translations. I even posted a miracle recently which happened through my interpretation of my own chirping budgies who I can only understand as well. You may want to check it out.
Posted by Ryan Reynolds  in  Canada  on  Sat Jun 06, 2009  at  07:25 AM
Sorry I forgot the myspace link
http://www.myspace.com/godwantsyoutolisten
Posted by Ryan Reynolds  in  canads  on  Sat Jun 06, 2009  at  07:28 AM
I just want to attest to the "speech" ability of these great little birds. I got an English budgie four months ago, and he's already very tame, crawls all over me and says the following things that I say to him:

"Hello Baby"
"Come here budgie."
"Come here baby."
"Give me a kiss."
"He's so sweet."
"Where's mama?"

I've had several budgies, several "talked."
One would land on my shoulder when I got home from work and say, "What tchou want?", among several things.

They are my favorite birds. Unfortunately my wife is a clear and present danger to budgies, leaves doors open, doesn't watch where she walks -they like to "graze" on the carpet. If I had to choose between my budgies and my wife, you can guess the outcome.
Posted by Jim Finney  in  Monterey County, CA  on  Sun Jun 07, 2009  at  12:39 AM
Your birds sound adorable.

sounds like you might have some issues there with your wife. is her carelessness around the birds intentional or sort of passive-aggressive?

because maybe you two have some stuff to work out and if you did, that would be the solution to handling the bird situation. not to be nosey.

I just notice how people are with their pets or kids, seems like their couple conflicts or power struggles get all caught up in the relationships with the pets/kids and that it makes for emotional casualties for the latter.
Posted by lowflyin lolana  on  Tue Jun 09, 2009  at  01:02 AM
I do think parakeet are smart birds. I have a budgie who is one years old. He cage is in my lanuage room were we spend 90% of our time. He started talking at 8 months. He understand basic things if i say tweety hom he runs to his cage, if i say wink he winks. if i have him out for long he bits my toe than runs to the cage, if he wanst water he says tweety water, he loves his mirror and mimics all the words I have taught him. he knows he can only pop on the floor so he flys down does his business than stands on my foot to came up on to the couch again. if he has an accident he tries to hide it by picking up his mess with his peck and throwing it on the floor. if you say kiss kiss he will make a kiss sound and also say the word. So yea budgies are smart but victor is over rated and unbelieve. My budgie is on utube as tweetybluey have a look.This is what a budgie sounds like. kind regards
Posted by Tweetyparakeet  in  down under  on  Fri Jun 12, 2009  at  09:58 AM
My little Buster is also careful about where he poops, but he doesn't go to the floor to do it. How did you teach him that?

If Buster poops on my shoulder, he will go to the other shoulder and wait for it to dry, then return, pick it off with his beak very carefully, and fling it away.
Posted by lolana  on  Fri Jun 12, 2009  at  05:38 PM
I taught him by just saying tweety no, tweety floor by pointing to the floor. Than he got the message. I tried to teach him to use tissue but he couldn't get the tissue out of the box with his beck so it didn't work his mess ended up on the tissue box. My budgie is very nosy he someone talks he will stop eating to listen.
Posted by Tweetyparakeet  in  nsw  on  Fri Jun 19, 2009  at  08:43 AM
My baby cockatiel is learning everything so fast. If you whistle a tune or make up one, he will sit on the edge of his food bowl, stare and chirp away at you to get your attention and starts "mimicking" the whistle I did out of habit.

I got the Adams family tune stuck in my head so i started whistling it softly and then my cockatiel kept trying it for 2 hour's and now sings it with a special twist.

Mine is only 7 months old and I am amazed at his behavior at such a young age.
Posted by Justin  in  NY  on  Thu Jul 02, 2009  at  12:53 AM
I have a new context speaking budgie now that has a similar vocabulary as Victor. Check him out on his website at http://www.victorthebugie.com/maylor.html
Posted by ryan  in  Canada  on  Tue Mar 16, 2010  at  05:40 PM
Comments: Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.