Parrot
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Source: Kongelige Bibliotek (Bestiarius - Bestiary of Anne Walsh (Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4)) Copyright 2003 Kongelige Bibliotek / Used by permission Manuscript description Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4, Folio 33v


 

Parrot

Latin name: Psittacus

Other names: Papegai, Papegault, Papegay, Popinjay

A talking bird with a very hard beak

 

 
General Attributes

The parrot is a bird found in India that can be taught to speak like a man. It learns better when it is young, but if it will not learn one must hit it over the head with an iron bar. It can say ave (a greeting) by nature, but must be taught all other words. Its beak is so hard that if the parrot falls from a height it can break its fall with its beak. Parrots are colored green with a purple-red collar; they hate the rain because the water makes their colors appear ugly. There are two kinds of parrot: the kind with three toes have a mean disposition, but the ones with six toes are gentle.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 58): The parrot, which comes from India, is a green bird with a red circlet around its neck. It can be taught to speak; it greets its master and repeats words said to it. Its head and beak are very hard. While being taught to speak it must be beaten on the head with an iron rod; its head is so hard that it will not feel lesser blows. Its feet are weak, so when it lands from flying it does so on its beak, and supports itself thus.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:24): The parrot comes from the coasts of India. It is green with a purple collar and tongue that is broader than that of other birds. It can speak articulated words, so that if you did not see it you would think it was a person speaking. By nature it greets people by saying "Ave"; from this came the saying "I a parrot will learn to say the names of others from you, but I learned on my own to say 'Hail Caesar'."

Sir John Mandeville [14th century CE] (Travels, chapter 30): And there [in the kingdom of Prester John] be many popinjays [parrots], that they clepe psittakes their language. And they speak of their proper nature, and salute men that go through the deserts, and speak to them as apertly as though it were a man. And they that speak well have a large tongue, and have five toes upon a foot. And there be also of another manner, that have but three toes upon a foot, and they speak not, or but little, for they can not but cry. (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1900) Macmillan edition of 1900)


Illustration

The parrot is usually depicted as a green bird with a collar around its neck.


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