'You bloody fool': Duck mimics human sound during mating display

A new study draws on recordings of a musk duck imitating human speech and a slamming door during courtship displays.

(CNN)An Australian musk duck has been recorded saying "You bloody fool" in the first documented instance of the species mimicking human speech.

A hand-reared male named Ripper was recorded imitating the phrase during a courtship display, according to a study published Monday. The authors said he could have learned it from his 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.
        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."

          'You bloody fool': Australian musk duck imitates human voice

          Some species are better mimics than musk ducks, but there are many songbirds and parrots that are worse at copying, added ten Cate.
          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.
          While some observations of musk ducks mimicking human sounds were documented in Australian bird journals, they never made it to the scientific community that studies vocal learning, ten Cate explained.
          The recordings were made during displays to attract a mate that combine sounds and physical movements such as splashing in the water.
          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."