Wednesday July 27, 2005
A parrot with a remarkably coherent line in invective has been given a private pen at a wildlife sanctuary, after swearing repeatedly at distinguished visitors including a mayor, a vicar and two police officers.
Barney the five-year-old Macaw can now be seen only on special request, like the British Library's collection of erotic books, in case he rounds on potential donors or gives a dreadful example to visiting children.
Trained by a previous owner who had a dislike of authority, he initially appeared to be a potential draw at the Warwickshire Animal Sanctuary, Nuneaton, because of his vivid blue and gold plumage and habit of saying "Thank you, big boy," when given a digestive biscuit.
But his other side was revealed when a civic party came on a tour of the sanctuary and Barney spotted the mayor's chain and a woman vicar's dog collar.
Instead of the Benedicite ("Oh all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord"), he told the mayor: "F*ck off," before turning to the vicar and saying: "You can F*ck off too."
The sanctuary's owner, Geoff Grewcock, 55, said yesterday: "To their credit they didn't take offence and laughed it off - and luckily so did two policemen who were told: "And you can F*ck off, you w*nkers."
The parrot is thought to have kept up its skills, since its owner - a retired truck driver - emigrated to Spain three years ago, by watching TV after the 9pm watershed.
Mr Grewcock is now attempting a cultural reversal by keeping Barney alone in a special cage listening to Radio 4.
"At night he likes to come and sit on my shoulder and watch documentaries and the news as well," he said, "so hopefully his vocabulary should become cleaner.
"It isn't really working yet but he is a very funny parrot, with a lot of character, and he does say thank you whenever you give him a treat."