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"You Bloody Fool," Australian Muck Duck Becomes First For Its Species To Mimic Human Voice, Study Suggests

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As a first for its species, a musk dusk has been recorded on tape mimicking human speech while mating.


"You bloody fool," the hand-reared male named Ripper was heard uttering during a courtship display, according to a study published Monday. The authors of the study belive that Ripper possibly learned the language from its caretaker.


"The Australian musk duck demonstrates an unexpected and impressive ability for vocal learning," the study said. The report also details how Ripper imitated the sound of a door opening and closing.


There are many species of ducks and geese that are bred in captivity, and there haven't been any reports of them showing an ability to mimic human sounds, study author Carel ten Cate told CNN on Tuesday.


"It's quite exceptional then to come across a species which apparently has the ability to mimic these sounds," he said.


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“Songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds are known to exhibit this vocal learning ability, but this is the first fully documented instance of musk ducks exhibiting vocal learning,’ said ten Cate, a researcher and professor of animal behavior at the Institute of Biology Leiden, at Leiden University, the Netherlands.


"It's not exactly a human voice, but very voice like," he said. "It's mimicking quite well."


Ripper was hand-reared at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, near Canberra, Australia, where the recordings were made in 1987 by now-retired ornithologist Peter J. Fullagar, who was formerly at the division of ecosystem sciences at The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.


In the recordings, Ripper appeared to imitate the sound of a door a few meters from the sink he was kept in for a few weeks after he was born, as well as what sounds like: "You bloody foo."


The last word could be either "fool" or "food," ten Cate said.


"It's in the ear of the beholder so to speak," he said, explaining that it was likely a phrase Ripper heard repeatedly from his caretaker.


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