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Not in Front of the Parrot!

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"Man! You can't say anything around those guys!"
Ace Ventura: The Animated Series, "The Parrot Who Knew Too Much"

One of the surest and swiftest ways to reveal something that you really didn't want to is to say it in front of a parrot or other talking bird. Especially a parrot that you've been trying and failing to teach some clever phrase. Birds have an innate sense of timing and can, when properly motivated, memorize a long and complicated phrase after only hearing it once. Yep, they're as sick as a parrot.

And don't let the fact that you've never spoken aloud about the issue in question reassure you. Any innocuous phrase that you might have said since the start of the episode can and will be used against you by the bird's selective memory quoting it out of context. A clever lawyer may use that to Make the Parrot Testify.

Naturally a subtrope of Talking Animal. Not to be confused with Parrot Exposition. See also Polly Wants a Microphone. Fowl-Mouthed Parrot is a sister trope for when what you said in front of the parrot shouldn't be said in polite company.


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  • Shortly after Bic introduced a disposable butane lighter to the free market with the tagline "Flick your Bic," a televised ad includes a grandmotherly woman in a car about to light her cigarette with a Bic lighter. A parrot in a cage beside her suddenly announces, "She's flicking her Bic! She's flicking her Bic!" The woman swats at the bird to make it quiet down.
  • One of Geico's "It's what you do" commercials has a pirate captain's Pirate Parrot repeat his plans to hide the gold from his crew, as well as call them stupid and smelly.
  • An ad for Irn-Bru had a parrot acting as a Moment Killer to a couple trying to get affectionate.
  • A card commercial has a disorganized pet store owner who sold parrots that kept saying "Did you pay me?" Turns out they picked it up from her when she was contacting her patrons by phone asking if they paid the invoices.
  • A pair of 2019 Discover Card commercials features a customer, Kevin, whose macaw, Timmy, had learned his social security number and password, and was constantly repeating them.
    Timmy: My password is "Nerdy4Birdy".
    Kevin: I said it one time.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Rumiko Takahashi Anthology: In the short story "In Lieu Of Thanks", a newcomer to a condo complex finds that the manager gets nervous when another tenant's pet myna cries out "crab shabu!" It turns out that the manager had eaten a crab that the tenant was planning to eat (as it was still alive and escaped, landing on the manager's porch), and the myna picked up the phrase from the tenant lamenting the crab's disappearance. Though the tenant didn't know what happened, the manager felt the bird was accusing her.
  • In Volume 4, Chapter 8 of Osomatsu-kun and Episode 5 of Osomatsu-san: After being given a drug, the family cat becomes a Living Lie Detector as ESP Kitty. If someone speaks and they are lying, the cat will fire back the words with their true thoughts, which soon proves problematic for everyone, both Played for Laughs and for drama.
    Sensei: Did you all finish your homework?
    Osomatsu: Yes!!
    ESP Kitty: As if!!
    Sensei: When I was your age, I only played after I finished my homework.
    ESP Kitty: I did homework after I played.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics:
    • One issue has Archie planning to give Veronica a mynah bird he's trained to say his phone number whenever she picks up the receiver. However, he shows and tells this plan to Jughead, who spends the entire time getting increasingly upset and loudly voicing his hatred for girls. Naturally, by the time Archie gets the bird to Veronica, all it says is what Jughead had been saying.
    • Another issue has Betty give Archie a parrot trained to repeat "BETTY COOPER!" over and over again to effectively "brainwash" him into being infatuated by her because of constantly hearing her name. That's not creepy or anything. It actually does work until Archie has to go away for a bit and has Jughead watch the parrot, who ends up discovering it loves pizza. By the time Archie gets it back it's since learned to yell "YUMMY PIZZA!" over and over instead and Archie's interest in Betty swiftly dwindles in favor of some Pizza Hut.
    • Actually enforced by Reggie Mantle in one issue, where Archie gets a talking parrot. He goes to a friend who can mimic the parrot's voice and gets him to say "Who's that fat guy in the tacky toupee? Isn't that the one you call The Bee?" into a tape recorder. Next, he plants a radio-controlled tape player in the cage and waits for Archie to show it to Mr. Weatherbee. It actually does work, and Archie gets detention, but unfortunately he left the tape recorder running and accidentally taped his own confession.
      Reggie's Tape: Beautiful, Snidely! Beautiful! It sounded just like The Bee! He'll fall on Carrot-Top like a pile of bricks, or my name's not Reggie Mantle!
  • One Batman foe, Cap'n Fear, had a robot parrot that was designed to randomly record and repeat phrases said around it. Capturing the parrot and accessing its memory provided Robin with information to allow him to track down the pirate's hideout.
  • In one of Ralf König's comics, there's a parrot whose previous owner had spent all his free time watching porn films. Consequently, it was very hard to find an owner who could tolerate the parrot's utterances...
  • In one Superman story (from Superman Family #197), Clark Kent is given a mynah bird as a gift. When the mynah starts spouting "Clark Kent is Superman", Clark thinks he must have been talking in his sleep and the bird has picked up the phrase. He goes to elaborate lengths to scare the bird out of repeating this phrase only to learn that May Marigold (the person who had given him the bird) had taught it to say "Clark Kent is Superman" as a joke. The story ends with him attempting to cajole the bird into saying it again.
  • In one Golden Age Batman story, the Penguin sells a millionaire a parrot that has been trained to remember the combination to a safe and repeat it to the Penguin.
  • Tintin:
    • In Tintin: The Broken Ear, a parrot was the sole witness to his owner's murder. Both Tintin and a couple of crooks try to get hold of the parrot, on the off-chance that its owner might have lived long enough to teach the bird his murderer's name. It turns out that he did.
    • In Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald, Captain Haddock gets a pet parrot, courtesy of Bianca Castafiore, who tells the Captain to watch the language, as Polly might pick it up. Later on, he does.
  • One Uncle Scrooge comic book involves a parrot repeating the combination of Scrooge's safe to a couple of burglars. This same story also contains an inversion of the trope: Scrooge had been using the parrot to help him remember the combination, which leads to difficulties when the bird flies away...
    • Another Disney Ducks Comic Universe story ("Il tesoro di Sierra Leone") has Scrooge and John D. Rockerduck looking for a prospector's hidden treasure by mining his parrot for info and following her through the wilderness. Hilarity Ensues as the parrot keeps refusing to spill the beans and demanding increasingly expensive delicacies... in the middle of the desert, no less.
  • A variation from W.I.T.C.H.: Will has telepathic powers that enables animals to sense her thoughts and emotions. This causes her some embarrassment when she volunteers to help her Love Interest Matt in his job at a pet store, and a parrot starts blurting out what she's thinking. While Matt is talking about another girl, Will has to keep the parrot's beak closed to keep it from revealing her angry and jealous thoughts, even musing at one point that she needs to be more careful what she thinks around it.

    Fan Works 
  • Marc Being In A Gang Rights: After Nathaniel realizes that Marinette was 100% right about Lila, he complains about how annoying Lila is in Yiddish. Unfortunately, Max's robot Markov understands Yiddish and translates it out-loud.
    Believing he could probably get away with it, he responded in Yiddish, "Ir zent akshli sheyn anoying itst az ikh trakhtn vegn im. Ir gerufn mir Nat iz efsher di ergst zakh vos ikh ken hern in meyn lebn."
    Lila blinked, "Huh?"
    Markov hummed, "I can translate!"
    Oh no.
    "He said, 'You are actually pretty annoying now that I think about it. You calling me Nath is quite possibly the worst thing I could ever hear in my lifetime.' I believe it is, as you say, out of character for Nathaniel based on what you have told me, Max! I'll add it to my knowledge!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The segment N is for Nuptials from The ABCs of Death involves a man using a talking parrot to propose to his girlfriend. Everything is going well until the parrot starts recounting the time the guy slept with another woman. The parrot even starts acting out the woman's moans out loud.
  • In The Flintstones movie, this is an important plot point, where there is a talking bird who is used like a tape recorder (called a "dictabird") and things said in front of him are used as evidence against the Corrupt Corporate Executive villain.
  • In the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, a parrot repeating what the villain said provides the vital clue to allow Bond to track down the villain's whereabouts. Then the parrot asks a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a kiss.
  • Appears near the beginning of Wild Target. Bill Nighy's assassin character says his name to a victim. After the shooting, the victim's parrot starts repeating the name...
  • The 2019 Hong Kong film A Witness Out Of The Blue revolves around a cop trying to clear his name after being suspected of being an accomplice in an armed robbery. The problem, however, is that his only lead is a talking parrot present in the crime scene, and most of the film revolves around the cop trying to get the parrot reveal the necessary clues for him to catch the real criminals.

  • There's an old joke about a woman seeing a parrot for sale very cheap, and upon asking the seller why it is so cheap, is told that it used to live in a whorehouse and thus is prone to saying some pretty vulgar stuff. The woman buys the parrot anyway and takes it home. The parrot looks around its new home and, assuming it to be another whorehouse, says, "New house, new madam." Then the woman's two teenage daughters come home and the parrot says, "New house, new madam, new whores." Finally, her husband comes home and the parrot says, "New house, new madam, new whores, but still the same old customers. Hello, Larry."
  • Or the one about the old woman who was a member of La Résistance against German occupation during WWII. Several resistance meetings were hold in her cottage. Naturally her parrot learnt some unsuitable phrases. After a while, the Germans started suspecting the old woman, and a squad was sent to investigate. They didn't find anything definite enough to arrest her, but while they were there, the parrot kept saying "Death to the Germans!" The squad leader promised to be back in a week, and if the parrot was still saying "Death to the Germans!", he would personally wring its neck. Now, the old woman was very fond of her parrot, and didn't want it killed. But how could she make it unlearn that phrase in just one week? At a loss for what to do, she consulted the priest of the nearest village, because he too had a similar parrot. The priest offered to switch parrots for a week. The old woman gratefully accepted. So, the week passed, and the squad of German soldiers returned to her cottage. The priest's parrot sat quietly in a corner. The squad leader, being in a bad mood and really wanting to hurt the woman somehow, went over to the parrot, bent down and whispered to it: "Death to the Germans!" The parrot solemnly replied: "May God hear your prayer, my son."
    • There is a nearly identical joke in Croatia: During Communist Yugoslavia, UDBA (Yugoslav equivalent of KGB or Gestapo, n.a.) heard that a priest had a parrot which was speaking against the country and the people. So they visited the priest and asked about his parrot. Parrot immediately said: "Rain falls, country falls apart.", and UDBA agents told him that he has two weeks to retrain the parrot. Once said time passed, they were back, and asked if he had retrained the parrot. He answered "yes", and was asked to demonstrate. So he told to parrot: "Rain falls, country falls apart.", and the parrot answered: "Thank God."
    • A woman bought a female parrot from a pet store but it had an issue. It would always say "I'm a slut, wanna screw?" She spoke to her priest about it and he said "You're in luck, I happen to have a very holy parrot, and he bows his head in prayer every day. Maybe he can help your parrot." So the priest brought his parrot over, and put it in the cage with the woman's parrot. The female parrot immediately said "I'm a slut, wanna screw?" and the priest's parrot bowed its head and said, "I thank thee, Lord, for answering my prayers..."
  • A man was walking through a pet store when a parrot called for his attention. "Buy me, I'm a very interesting parrot!" The man stopped and asked "What's so interesting about you?" "I have no legs," said the parrot. "Well how do you stay on the perch?" the man asked. The parrot replied, "I have a very long penis and wrap it around the perch!". The man did think this was an interesting parrot and bought it. One day the man came home from work and the parrot said "Your friend Harry was over today!" The man said "Really?" "He was hugging your wife!" The man asked for more information. "They were kissing!" The man asked for more info. "They took their clothes off!" Infuriated, the man demanded what happened next. The parrot responded, "I dunno, I got a woody and fell off the perch!"
  • There is an old Soviet joke about a man who comes to the KGB and says, "My parrot flew away, have you seen it"? The KGB officer replies, "We don't deal in such things, we aren't a lost and found parrots office". Then the man says, "OK, but if it ever comes here, just remember that I don't share its ideas".
  • Another similar joke had the KGB hear that a parrot is flying on the streets shouting things like "Down with the Party!" "Give us freedom of speech!" "When will the Soviet Union fall already?!". They chase it, and see it fly into a window. They enter the flat in question and start asking the owner. The latter states he does have a parrot, but one that would never say anything like that. As proof, he opens the freezer, takes out the parrot, and the bird starts shouting "Hail Lenin!" "Long live the Party!" "There is no better country than the Soviet Union!" The KGB people assume they must have made a mistake and leave. Once they're out, the man looks at the parrot and says "Well, pal, looks like you've got a taste of what Siberia is like."
  • According to an Israeli joke, Assad Sr. once bought a parrot who was specifically trained to tell Assad, ‘Moshe Dayan fucked you! Hahahaha!’ over and over. Assad brought the parrot home, and the parrot did as it was instructed, despite Assad telling it to shut up. Finally he got mad and cut out the parrot's tongue. The parrot covered one eye with one wing and flipped him the bird with the other.
  • There is a joke about a woman telling her daughter's fiancé how pure her daughter is, and goes to show him how modest is the room she never leaves. As soon as the parrot there sees the guy, he breaks into a monologue indicating...the girl might be a Technical Virgin, but no more than that.

  • The pseudo-encyclopedia The Dictionary of the Khazars at one point makes reference to the mechanism by which the Khazar language was preserved, despite the civilization's having been extinct for centuries — their language was repeated and passed down through generations of parrots on the shores of the Black Sea.
  • In Anne of Avonlea, Anne befriends an old man even though his parrot repeats his less-than-neighborly comments about her every time she comes around. He tries to rectify it by saying nicer things when he sees her coming, but apparently the parrot likes getting him in trouble.
  • The parrot in Next does this (given it's established level of intelligence, probably specifically for the lulz) at least once.
  • Invoked with the help of Voluntary Shapeshifting at the beginning of Animorphs #15, when Cassie talks the others into helping her shut down a fast food restaurant that uses live parrots as a gimmick.
    Parrot!Jake: Awk! Try the Jungle Burgers! Made with real cat meat!
    Parrot!Marco: (to man wearing a toupee) Awk! Nice toupee! Where'd you get it, the carpet store?
    Parrot!Cassie: Awk! We should be flying free in our native habitats! Awk!
  • Older Than Print: An Arabian Nights story features a husband who suspects his wife is unfaithful and, before he leaves on business, buys a parrot in hopes it will inform him of what's going on.
  • Inverted in The Three Investigators novel The Secret of the Stuttering Parrot. Parrots taught clues to the location of a hidden treasure have been so badly traumatized by their treatment at the hands of criminals that they refuse to talk. Fortunately, a mynah bird in the group (a last-minute replacement for a dead parrot) has memorized all the clues, and can be easily coaxed to repeat them.
  • Played with in Martha Walks the Dog. Martha has fun teaching a parrot sentences, but its owner is not so delighted when he brings home a girlfriend and it starts saying she has fleas.
  • Uncle Feather the Mynah in Judy Blume's Superfudge, while he doesn't pick up actual secrets, learns just enough accidental phrases (and comic timing, apparently) to call his owner's ex-kindergarten teacher "stupid" in front of the entire class.
  • An eerie variation occurs in Robert Smythe Hichen's classic horror story "How Love Came to Professor Guildea". Among other hints of a growing supernatural presence, the professor's parrot begins to twitch and move in increasingly unnatural ways, and babbling in a low, grotesque voice. It turns out that the parrot is mimicking something the human characters can't perceive...
  • Mr. Big from the Garrett, P.I. series, aka "The Goddamn Parrot", was specifically trained to invoke this trope by Morley before he gave the bird to Garrett as a prank. Turns out it was pre-loaded with rude phrases and a tendency to cry rape.
  • In the novel All Clear by Connie Willis, Alf and Binnie's parrot repeats the less-than-polite conversation about hiding it from the landlady verbatim within earshot of her, causing Polly, Eileen, Alf, Binnie and the parrot to be evicted from the boardinghouse. This may have been due to the in-story nature of the space-time continuum.
  • In the Petsitters Club book The Rude Parrot, it is revealed that the parrot the Petsitters are babysitting was saying rude words because it was mimicking the speech of its previous owner, who had died.
  • Played very darkly in Chabon's The Final Solution.
  • In The Twelve Chairs, Ostap Bender starts a fake anti-Soviet resistance cell as scam to raise some money from local bourgeoisie. A parrot is present on the meeting of the cell. This parrot didn't talk before, but afterwards it starts to squawk quotes from Ostap's dangerously seditious speech.
  • Though not technically parrots, the Jabberjays in "The Hunger Games" fit this trope, being mutant birds specially bred to mimic what they hear and report back to the Capitol.
  • In Boy's Life two parrots overhear the murder and their subsequent bizarre behaviour provides a clue for the protagonist to unravel the mystery.
  • In a short story called "The Truth About Annie", a woman tries to figure out why her parrot keeps repeating phrases like "Annie died" and "Annie is bleeding". It turns out Annie was a character in a soap opera that the bird's former owner had been watching.
  • Older Than Feudalism: One story in Ovid's Metamorphoses tells of how Apollo fell in love with the mortal woman Coronis, until a raven tells him about her infidelity and he kills her. Doubles as a "Just So" Story, because he then turns the raven from white to black. (Chaucer retells this story as the Manciple's Tale in The Canterbury Tales.)
  • In The Newest Plutarch, John-Lincoln Baird's pigerots (pigeon-parrot hybrids) are used to deliver spoken messages. However, there was a problem with them repeating old messages until a pill was made to erase old recording from their minds.
  • Played for Drama in The Echorium Sequence when the villain uses the bird-like Quetzal's perfect vocal mimicry to steal one of the Singers' Songs of Power.
  • Nina Tanleven: Inverted in The Ghost Let Go — as a ghost, Mrs. Smiley taught her parrot a phrase that she wanted to get out, but nobody understood it for the longest time. The phrase is "Go to Jeremiah", which ultimately leads Nine to the Book of Jeremiah in Mrs. Smiley's old bible, where she'd left the letter to her daughter that she'd written as she was dying.
  • The Thinking Machine: In "The Lost Million", a bitter old hermit tells his heirs before he dies that he has hidden his fortune where they will never find it. The only clue is the old man's parrot, which constantly swears and spouts random calculations. Van Dusen takes the parrot and, by writing down everything the parrot says, works out the numbers are actually a set a measurements. The old man had repeated them over and over when planning the hiding place, and the parrot memorised them, and was repeating them randomly. Once Van Dusen places them in the correct order, he just has to deduce the starting place.
  • Red Planet: Willis the Bouncer is confiscated by the new headmaster, who is unaware that the Martian 'pet' has sentience and can repeat any sound with perfect clarity. Willis overhears a discussion between the headmaster and the colonial administrator, who in a money-saving measure is planning to stop the colonists from migrating away from the harsh Martian winters. Willis repeats this conversation to the protagonists, setting off the plot as they set off to warn the colonists of the Evil Plan.
  • in The Real Maccaw by Donna Andrews (Part of the "Meg Langslow Mysteries) the titular parrot fingers a previously-unsuspected character — not by repeating any incriminating dialogue, but by repeating his owner's name in tones of passion, and in one of his lover's distinctive New England accent note . Interestingly, the murderer and her victim actually joked about this trope pre-murder, so she bought a similar bird and swapped them. Unfortunately the maccaw was a rare breed that couldn't be found at the pet store, so credit card records of the substitute bird's purchase became part of the evidence against her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Adam-12, there is a scene where Reed and Malloy pull over a motorist for running a boulevard stop. He gives the cops the whole you-just-like-busting-people-like-me routine. Then his girlfriend's mynah starts saying, "Down with the pigs!" Reed and Malloy give him a warning, and he is definitely not going to run any more boulevard stops today.
  • An episode of Car 54, Where Are You? takes this trope to the extreme. Captain Block leaves his beloved but speechless pet parrot in the care of Gunther Toody. After several failed attempts at teaching the bird to talk, Toody gets frustrated and carelessly blurts out "I hate Captain Block!" You can guess what happens next — but that's just the beginning. A panicked Toody tries to exchange the bird with a look-alike that can't talk...only for the parrot to teach it its phrase. Furthermore, Toddy takes the bird to the pet store in hopes that the store owner can get it to stop. The parrot speaks, and within seconds every single bird in the store is chattering "I hate Captain Block!". The poor pet store owner ends up giving all his birds away and getting a new batch. These are likewise ruined when a disgruntled Captain Block, back from vacation, brings his parrot into the pet store. The parrot speaks, and suddenly all the new birds are squawking "I hate Gunther Toody!"
  • A Missing Episode of Dad's Army had a couple of old ladies with a talking parrot that had belonged to their dead brother. The ladies were rather deaf, so didn't know the parrot was saying things like, "Shut up you old hags," and "Take off those knickers and get up them stairs."
  • Subverted in one episode of Desperate Housewives, where Orson Hodge's backstory is revealed. His wife mysteriously disappears, and when his neighbor pops by to ask about her, the wife's parrot says, "Orson, No! Please! No!" It is later revealed that his wife is in fact alive, and the parrot was reciting Orson's wife's pleas not to leave her and get a divorce.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Petries' neighbors, the Helpers, have a parrot who constantly says "Don't be nervous" in imitation of the husband, Jerry, who's a dentist.
  • In a cartoon skit on The Electric Company (1971), a plumber knocks on an apartment door. The parrot inside says, "Who is it?" followed by the plumber explaining, "I've come to fix the sink." This repeats several times before the plumber gets fed up and faints. Later, the parrot's owner comes home and asks, "Who is it?" The parrot says, "It's the plumber. He's come to fix the sink."
  • Faerie Tale Theatre's episode based on Rapunzel gave the titular heroine a pet parrot to alleviate her loneliness. Of course it's the bird who repeats some things she and her prince have said to each other when the witch is visiting, giving the game away.
  • Also happens in an episode of Family Matters when Carl's boss, Commissioner Geiss, leaves his parrot, Andre, with Carl for a couple of weeks. During that time, after being irritated by the bird, Carl says his boss is an idiot right in front of it. Fortunately, Carl doesn't get in trouble when he learns that Geiss's wife already taught the bird to say that. However, the Commissioner lands himself in a pickle of his own when he calls his wife a pain in the butt as he and the parrot are leaving.
  • The Fast Show had one of these, who seemed to have been trained to have a vocabulary amounting to "Wanker" and "Twat". "Oh, bugger..."
  • Frasier: Niles had a talkative sulphur-crested cockatoo named Baby. Her crowning moment of glory was to utterly sabotage an important party by repeating the insults Niles had spoken in the kitchen about his guests being drunks and lechers — in hearing range of the decidedly unamused drunks and lechers.
  • A variation is found on Friends. Monica is babysitting her nephew Ben. She accidentally bangs his forehead against a ceiling beam while tossing him up and down. Rachel agrees that they shouldn't tell Ross, but then Ben says, "Monica BANG!" Monica is mortified. "He's gonna rat me out!"
  • Get Smart used this trope a couple of times. In one case, a parrot that was supposed to be used to monitor a pet shop that was a KAOS front instead gave away Max's identity by repeating part of his conversation with the Chief.
  • Hannah Montana: Jackson once dated a girl named Becky but it ended when his best friend asked him to watch over a parrot. It repeated unkind things said about another Becky.
  • On Happy Endings Alex bought a parrot from a guy on the Internet whose name she thought was "A Ryan 420". As it turned out it was "Aryan 4/20" with the 4/20 in honor of Adolf Hitler's birthday. Most of the words and phrases the bird had picked up were racist.
  • Henry Danger: In "Grand Theft Otto", After Piper brings her class parrot home for the weekend, it hears Charlotte say "Henry is Kid Danger". They have to steal the parrot to prevent it from repeating it in front of Piper. After Schwoz clones the parrot, they accidentally say it again, meaning they had to clone another. This is repeated because every clone hears it, eventually from all of the other clones that are in the Man Cave.
  • Implied: The M*A*S*H episode "Life With Father" has Henry receiving a movie that he, Hawkeye and Trapper will screen later, titled "What The Parrot Saw."
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Convalescence", an African Grey Parrot is a key witness to the murder to his owner. Because Detective Murdoch got injured earlier in the episode when he fell off a ladder, Constable Crabtree is tasked to solve the murder and has to figure out who the murderer is by what the parrot is repeating from the conversation leading to the murder. Also Make the Parrot Testify maybe?
  • On My Name Is Earl, Darnell revealed that back in the day before he got put into Witness Protection, he shared an apartment with a man who was a porn star. That porn star is now married to the governor of whatever state Camden is located in, and she got him a job as the warden of the state prison. A porn movie was being filmed in the apartment just as Darnell returned. He was OK with that, but asked if he could put a cloth over Mr. Parrot's cage.
    Darnell: I don't want to hear him talking about this all night.
  • On The Nanny, a parrot exposes that Fran told Val about Cher secretly staying at the Sheffields'. Although that is not why it spread to the media. Maxwell himself was responsible for that. Niles and Brighton also try to teach it embarrassing and untrue statements about Ms. Babcock and Maggie, respectively, but it won't cooperate with them.
  • On an episode of NCIS, Abby is parrot-sitting for her brother, but Gibbs disapproves of her having the bird in her lab. After the parrot, Juan, hears Jimmy saying “Don’t tell Gibbs!” (upon learning that his owner will be out of town for another day) he starts repeating it. The next day, Gibbs is talking to Abby in the lab, when all of a sudden he hears “Squawk! Don’t tell Gibbs!” from the hidden Juan.
    Juan: Don’t tell Gibbs! [Gibbs uncovers his cage] Uh-oh!
    Gibbs: That sounds like Palmer.
  • Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn In "The Secret", Dawn is upset when the school knows about her crush on Mack, a secret she told only to her brothers. She accuses them but they all deny telling, getting mad at each other for breaking Dawn's trust. However, Dawn discovered a parrot had mimicked her brothers teasing her when she first told them and the parrot had been brought to the Get Sporty cafe, where their friends hung out.
  • The Not Going Out episode "Rabbit" revolves around Lucy accidentally running over her client's pet rabbit and Lee getting the blame. When they go to a pet shop to buy a new one, he jokingly asks a parrot if it can say "RABBIT MURDERER! RABBIT MURDERER!" Later on, the client shows up unexpectedly and backs Lee into a corner while Lucy escapes. You can guess what the parrot's contribution to the situation was.
  • NYPD Blue had the Pointy-Haired Boss bring in an obnoxious parrot that repeated everybody. Sipowicz forces the boss to get rid of it by a simple trick: he plants a tape recording of somebody shouting "Douchebag! Douchebag!" in the parrot's room overnight.
  • A second-season episode of Perry Mason had a parrot as witness to its master's death; it kept repeating a line where the victim pleaded with his killer to put down the gun. However, it turned out to be a substitute identical parrot, specially trained by someone who intended to kill the owner and wanted to shift blame onto someone else who hated the owner. Ironically, the guy who trained the parrot found the owner dead before he could kill him; he left it marching around the corpse anyway.
  • In "Comrade Harold", an episode of The Red Green Show, Ed Frid borrows his girlfriend's parrot for the animal segment. Unfortunately, the bird calls Ed a loser who can't commit. To make matters worse, the parrot refers to Ed by name.
  • On an episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Eric is trying to get a macaw to talk. When Liz reveals what Maria really thinks of her boss, the macaw immediately starts repeating it. ("Maria thinks Mr. Carey's a big jerk.") Later, the macaw gets loose after an earthquake and Maria has to track it down.
  • Small Wonder: In an early episode, the Lawsons have the Brindles as uninvited house guests after the latter family's house burns down. Naturally, the Brindles' parrot reveals the real cause of the fire.
  • The fist episode of Sun Tap subverts this. Local pension poacher Donald Hammer looses his pet parrot Wally and wants to get him back so that he can kill him before he lets slip about the location of his secret fortune. Wally himself is never seen or heard; as Donald's private investigator anticipates his motives and tricks him.
  • In Season One of Twin Peaks, a search of the cabin where Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski were tortured reveals the only potential witness: Waldo the Mynah Bird. Hoping the bird will talk if left alone, Agent Cooper sets his tape recorder by Waldo's cage. Main suspect Leo, afraid of what the bird might say, shoots it — but not before the bird says his name on tape.
  • In Robin Williams' HBO Comedy Special Weapons of Self-Destruction, Robin talks about the dangers of keeping a parrot in the bedroom while having sex:
    Sooner or later your parrot will go, "Not the ass." Whoa, Petey! Uh, he's been watching porn again... "Fuck me Teddy, fuck me hard!" Ha ha ha...Honey, who's Teddy?

  • One birthday card had a family with a teenage daughter sitting down to dinner when the parrot exclaims, "Awrak! Quick, Jimmy! Put on your pants and leave! My parents will be home any minute!" The daughter just sits there with an Oh, Crap! look on her face.
  • Found in a fortune cookie:
    So live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.

  • Bob Dylan's version of the traditional Murder Ballad "Love Henry" (also known as "Henry Lee") ends with the woman realising that her parrot has heard everything and trying to convince it to fly down to where she can reach it. The parrot is Genre Savvy enough to refuse.
    A girl who would murder her own true love would kill a little bird like me!
  • Used in a few of the Child Ballads: "Bonny Birdy" (#82) has a knight learn of his wife's infidelity from the talking bird she mistreated; some versions of "The Outlandish Knight" (#4) play with the trope by having the heroine bribing the family parrot to conceal her attempted elopement from her parents. (In both ballads, the birds are basically talking animals rather than realistic parrots.)
  • Joe Scruggs's song "Bahamas Pajamas" features two parrot puppets who wear earmuffs so they can't repeat what Joe says. Instead, they come up with funny rhymes since they can't hear him clearly.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Used somewhat realistically in a Far Side panel, of all places: A group of mobsters are discussing the location of their new hideout in a pet shop full of parrots. "Alright, let's repeat the address a hundred times or so to make sure we all get it."
    • The Far Side loved this trope. One comic has a pet shop parrot repeating its owner's last words ("Rack! The anaconda is loose! Call Animal Control!"); another has it repeating its thuggish owner's proscription to "Hey, boid, shaddup!" between snatches of song (given that the song is one note repeated, it may have been mimicking the guy's machine gun!); a third shows a parrot perched on a pith helmet partly submerged in a quicksand patch declaring, "Let go, Morty, you're pulling me in!"
  • FoxTrot did a plot similar to this, but with a toddler instead of parrot. While Paige was babysitting, she watched a TV show she wasn't allowed to watch (a Brand X version of Jerry Springer) and the kid picked up a swear word from the show. Hilarity Ensued.
  • In one Blondie (1930) comic, Dagwood is at a pet store looking at a parrot. He tells the salesman he'll agree to buy it if the salesman can teach it to say "Come on in. Come on in." as a promotion for Blondie's catering business. The salesman tells him it'll take about a month, so Dagwood comes back a month later, and sure enough, the parrot is saying "Come on in. Come on in." Unfortunately, it also learned "And kiss my tattered tail feathers."

  • In two episodes of The Men from the Ministry, there's a parrot in the office which repeats the insults Lennox-Brown and Lamb made about Sir Gregory when he's in the room.
  • In one episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, two parrots are discussing whether one of them has an unfaithful wife, pausing to repeat the last thing the other one said. At the end, just when the married parrot has decided to trust her, his friend repeats something she said when they were together...

  • In one of the Bottom Live stage shows, Richie is looking after the vicar's parrot, but discovers — shortly before a visit from the queen — that it has acquired a large vocabulary of bad language from Eddie.
    Richie: Eddie! Have you been teaching the vicar's parrot to swear?
    Eddie: Er... No.
    Parrot: He spunky, wanky, titting well has, you know!

    Video Games 
  • Playing a word game with Loulou the parrot is necessary to complete The Curse of Blackmoor Manor.
  • In the Adventure Game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, at one point an archeologist required you to answer a question in order to proceed. The solution to the puzzle? Talk to the archeologist's parrot.
  • In the adventure game Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, you have to play a keyboard for a parrot to learn and repeat later. This being Monty Python, you have to play the keyboard incorrectly for the parrot to learn it correctly.
  • In Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest, there's a parrot who will provide some pretty helpful information at the right times.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty's Plant chapter features a parrot owned by Emma who will squawk various things, among them a hint on where the guards store their dirty magazines ("Top of locker! Top of locker!"), as well as some groaning catcalls which are implied to be the guards' reaction to them. In an example which is both completely optional and a superfluous display of realism, Raiden can also teach it a few phrases by repetition. Using the directional microphone to make Raiden say, "You must be Ames," will add that phrase to its banter, and it will also mimic the guards' alerts if you get caught in that room enough times.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario is only able to defeat a certain boss after guessing his name, and he learns it after listening to the bad guy's pet parrot. This being a fantasy world, though, the parrot is much more capable of speech than usual, so the bad guy is slightly off the hook.
  • Double Subversion: In case 4 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix calls a witness' pet parrot to the stand, hoping that it'll blab an important piece of evidence, but finds the opposition has thought ahead and managed to re-train the parrot. It still gives enough information to let him go ahead with the trial.
  • A variant using a crow, which can also mimic human speech, appears in the Gold, Silver, and Crystal versions of Pokémon. You obtain a password in Team Rocket's base from a Murkrow — a crow Pokemon.
    • Played with in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The fourth generation introduces Chatot, a parrot-like Pokémon whose signature move Chatter allows the player to record a short phrase with the DS microphone to replace Chatot's crynote . The player can invoke this by recording inappropriate phrases that Chatot will shout upon entering battle, but the developers were aware of this and not only had Chatter distort the audio beyond recognition, but banned Chatot from online battles so you couldn't insult your opponent with the recorded phrase. You can annoy the hell out of them by recording a very loud Chatter, though; in fact, louder Chatters are encouraged in the game since they increase the chance of confusing your opponent Pokémon.
  • In Infocom's Sorcerer, the player character's mentor's parrot provides some important clues by saying things like "Where did I leave my spectacles?", "Now where can I hide this key?" and "You should never have let down your mindshield, you doddering old Enchanter. Squawk!" Then it starts asking for crackers.
  • In Ultima VII: The Black Gate, striking a parrot (any parrot, anywhere in the game world) with a gavel causes it to reveal the map coordinates of a pirate treasure.
    • In Ultima VII Part II: Seprent Isle, hitting a parrot with a mallet will eventually make it say "That will not work this time!"

    Visual Novels 
  • Actually an important plot point in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The clueless old man that owns the boat rental shop near where the murder took place has a pet parrot named Polly. Maya asks the parrot what the old man's safe number is, and sure enough it tells them. And just as she and Phoenix are about to leave, Maya asks the parrot if they've forgotten anything, at which point it blurts out "Don't forget DL-6!" tying the shop owner to an older case that's connected to the current one. As a result, Phoenix ends up ordering the parrot as a witness to prove the connection between the old man and Yammi Yogi, the main suspect of the DL-6 case. As it turns out, the prosecutor for the case retrained the parrot the night before in case Phoenix tried this, but Phoenix still manages to connect the dots in court through the parrot's name (Polly was Yammi Yogi's wife) and the safe number. (1228, when the date of the DL-6 incident was 12/28)

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: In Campaign 2, Kiri the Kenku is only able to speak in phrases said around her. Once, when she was being babysat by Caleb and Nott, they discussed some personal stuff in front of her, which she repeated out of context to the rest of the group later. Downplayed, since it was nothing particularly revealing at the time and Caleb and Nott were able to play it off.
  • In this Futility Closet, a parrot helps the police by repeating the burglars' names.
  • SuperMarioLogan: In "Bowser's Parrot!" the titular bird just won't stop repeating "Bowser's a retard!" thanks to Junior. Hilarity Ensues.
  • This Pet Shaming photo shows a parrot who accidentally placed an order using Amazon Echo.

  • Subverted in This Cyanide and Happiness strip, where a man's pet parrot squawks about gassing all Jews and killing all the blacks, convincing the other man he's talking to that the man is a racist. After the man scolds his parrot for humiliating him, it's then revealed that the parrot actually is a Nazi.
  • In the The Perry Bible Fellowship strip "Boss", two mobsters greet said boss with their pet parakeet echoing the greeting. The parakeet then sings, "Gotta kill boss tonight," presumably echoing some conversation the mobsters had earlier; this leads to the two of them getting gunned down outside in retaliation as the parrot is framed in a Traitor Shot. Given the nature of PBF, it's ambiguous as to whether the parrot was really repeating the mooks' words or whether the parrot just wanted the boss to think it was.

    Western Animation 
  • The page quote comes from an episode of the Animated Adaptation of Ace Ventura appropriately titled "The Parrot Who Knew Too Much", which features a parrot who has overheard recurring villain Baron Declaw talking with his right-hand man about a scheme using altered maps to allow him to level the rainforest. The episode's plot deals with Declaw chasing after the parrot to keep the information from getting out and Ace trying to save the parrot so it can testify about Declaw's scheme. At the end of the episode, when Ace is releasing the parrot back into the wild after its testimony saves the rainforest, he finds out that it overheard details about secret documents while in Washington.
  • In the Alvin and the Chipmunks interpretation of Treasure Island, Jim Hawkings (Alvin) exploits this to get Long John Silver (Dave)'s parrot to reveal that Long John was planning on double crossing his fellow pirates.
    Long John: Who are you gonna believe, Ol' Long John, or this miserable bag of feathers?
    Other Pirates: THE BAG OF FEATHERS!
  • In the Captain Flamingo episode "Ready to Swear", after Tabitha's baby brother Tucker says a long bleeped-out swear to a parrot, it causes the parrot to repeat that exact swear, and then take Tucker in its talons. While hanging onto the parrot, he continues to learn a bunch of new swears from the parrot, causing some of the citizens in Halverston and Area to hear his filthy mouth.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "The Parrot Trap", Dexter creates a robot-parrot to keep around the lab, largely to hear it mimic his bragging and self-praise ("Dexter is the most brilliant mind in the entire universe!"). It backfires in short order when the parrot begins to mimic Dee Dee, then escapes the lab and threatens to blab about it to Dexter's parents.
  • Seen in an episode of Doug, where a parrot overheard Patti and Skeeter's confidential discussion (being locked in the same closet with them), and then mentions it in front of Roger, causing Patti and Skeeter to think the other betrayed their trust. Plus, the parrot was used to parody "The Raven".
  • In one of the flashbacks on Family Guy, Peter teaches Joe's new pet parrot to say the word "cripple".
    • In the same episode, Peter's new parrot, Adrien Beaky picks up some things.
      Adrien Beaky: Pick a lane, bitch!
      Peter: Isn't that funny? He heard me say that on the way over in the car.
      Adrien Beaky: I gotta pee. Where's that Snapple bottle?
      Peter: (laughs)
      Adrien Beaky: I had a gay experience at camp.
      Peter: (nervously laughs) We uh, had the radio on and they were saying some wacky stuff...
  • Invoked and subverted in Fillmore!, where O'Farrell thinks he can get a parrot to testify as a witness, but it just squawks and bites him. The rest of the Safety Patrol ignore him as he continues to try even after the case is solved.
    O'Farrell: Polly want to confess what he saw between 10:26 and 10:31 this morning? Huh!? Do ya, Polly!?
  • In The Flintstones episode "Buffalo Convention", Fred gets Wilma a dodo bird named Doozy who can talk. However, he refuses to speak in front of Wilma, causing her to doubt Fred's claims. Doozy eventually does start talking... right when Fred and Barney are talking about the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes' secret convention in Frantic City.
    "Frantic City! Frantic City!"
  • Inverted on G.I. Joe, in that the secret overheard by Shipwreck's parrot actually turns out to be the key to defeating a COBRA plot. The bird has the courtesy not to blab the code words to unlock a formula hypnotically buried in Shipwreck's memory until it can save the day by doing so.
  • Girlstuff/Boystuff: "Teacher's Pet" has Ben tasked with taking care of the science teacher's parrot for a few days. His friends teach it to say various things as jokes, including "Ben is a chick magnet", which they find funny since he's a Casanova Wannabe. The bird talks incessantly while Ben tries to sleep, and he tries to get it to stop talking and bribe it with a cookie. It also turns out to have a skin infection which it didn't seem to have until the bird was in his care, and since Ben doesn't want to be blamed for it, he tries to treat it in secret. When it comes time for the parrot to be given back to the teacher, it suddenly repeats a large number of the phrases it learned over the course of the episode, ending with...
    Parrot: ...Shut up! Cookie if you shut up! Skin infection! Ben is a dead man!
    Teacher: You can say that again.
  • The parrot Helga's dad gets in an episode of Hey Arnold! memorizes one of her love poems to Arnold — including her name in the last line. Fortunately for Helga, the parrot is eaten by a monitor lizard before it can get that far.
  • The Kids from Room 402: In "The Peep and the Sheep", Jesse and Vinny teach a parrot to say rude things as part of a prank. Unfortunately, for them, the parrot heard them using their names while discussing ideas.
  • Happened to Mike from Mike, Lu & Og in the episode "Repeat After Me" with Wendel's bird Skipper, who took her lines out of context to offend her friends.
    Lu: Now that everybody hates you, I'm the most popular girl on the island.
    Skipper: Rawk! Spoiled brat! Spoiled brat!
    Lu: And if he keeps this up, the only one.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Farting Dragon", the Scissorsmith's rather talkative parrot tells Jack where the dragon is that's causing the foul smell plaguing the town. Although the Scissorsmith had previously told Jack that's it's actually his wife. ("Never sell a wizard an expired fishing license," he warns. Of course, the guy was pretty eccentric.)
  • Steven Universe: Future: In "Prickly Pair", Steven accidentally creates Cactus Steven, who learns to repeat everything Steven says, which comes back to bite the latter hard when he vents his bottled-up thoughts right in front of the plant.
    Steven: (sees the Gems come up the steps, gasps) The Gems!
    Cactus Steven: The Gems don't need me anymore!
    Steven: Those are my real private thoughts! I can't let them hear this...
  • Stōked: Lo's plans for ditching work are blabbed by the restaurant's cockatoo.
  • In one episode of Total Drama Island the campers who have already been voted off have to select the remaining camper who will be joining them. After a few vote for Leshawna because they miss her, it's pointed out that they shouldn't vote for her because they want her to win. Unfortunately, every time someone says "Leshawna," it counts as a vote. A parrot appears out of nowhere and repeats her name, which is also counted as a vote. Pointing out that a parrot shouldn't have the right to vote also counts as a vote.

    Real Life 
  • It's not wise to keep a parrot in the same room as an Alexa device... Alexadevice
  • Though not a parrot, a rumor that the Furby could mimic what was said to them (a misunderstanding of how the pre-programmed Furbish-to-English transition in the toy's speech worked) had several intelligence agencies banning the toy from their offices to prevent the little cretins from repeating top-secret information to unauthorized members of society.
  • This parrot learned to say "I love you Gary". His owner's name was Chris.
  • A crime was solved because of this trope. At a murder the only evidence found was a flute with a defective key that produced a unique sound. A sailor was found in possession of a parrot that would make a sound exactly like the flute. Later evidence proved that the sailor was guilty.
    • On the other hand, in American courts the parrot's "testimony" alone is not proof of guilt. There was one case where the suspected murderer was the boyfriend of the victim, but the parrot said the name of the victim's roommate followed by what seemed to be a plea to stop.
    • A similar if not the same case: the murder of Jane Gill. The defense attorney tried to introduce testimony that her parrot had started to repeat, "Richard, no, no, no!" when the defendant's name was Gary. It didn't work.
  • Because parrots have very long lifespans and often outlive their owners, it's frequently advised to parrot owners to avoid swearing around their parrots so that when the owner dies, the parrot will have an easier time finding a home. (Oddly enough, most prospective pet owners don't want their birds to swear at them.) Suffice it to say: no matter how hard you try, no matter how polite you are around your parrot, the one time you break your toe on the coffee table and slip up with a Cluster F-Bomb, the parrot will remember. Inevitably.
  • Andrew Jackson's parrot had to be forcibly removed from his funeral because it wouldn't stop swearing. In two languages! (It was fluent in English and Spanish)
  • There was an article that made the rounds in 2004 about Winston Churchill's 104-year old parrot that supposedly still was around to exclaim, "F—- the Nazis!" Within a couple of days, historians and Churchill's daughter disavowed the claim.
  • A parrot in Romania was overheard reciting jokes making fun of the eldest son of Nicolae Ceaucescu. The secret police put it under arrest and interrogated it to try and find out who it had learnt them from.
  • Aside from speech, parrots have also been known to imitate ringing phones, doorbells, knocks on the door and so on, well enough to interrupt conversations because the listeners excuse themselves to answer the caller.
    • Including a parrot who had lived for several years in a care home for elderly people in Glasgow. After it was re-homed, its new owner took it to the vets saying it was sick, it seemed to be constantly coughing and grizzling with discomfort... (of course a genuinely sick parrot wouldn't cough like a human anyway...)
  • A fire station had to get rid of its pet parrot because it had learnt to perfectly imitate the alarm bell.
  • There was a story about a couple who kept their African grey in their bedroom; they "got busy" one night, and while guests were over, the African grey repeated the events of the night back to them.
  • Parakeets and Quaker parrots are also notorious for this.
  • There's a Mexican stock phrase named Mataron hasta el Perico (They killed even the parrot), who was adopted after a notorious mass murder case that happened in the 1950s when the killer killed even the owner's parrot, since it knew the name of the murderer.
  • The menuridae (or lyrebirds) are a family of Australian birds which song is a perfect imitation of any noise the bird have heard (males seem to be more skilled than females). Not only other bird songs, but also cameras, chainsaws, car alarms, etc. And even sometimes the human voice.
  • During the French Revolution, the parrot owned by a French aristocrat family was caught endlessly repeating "Long live the King! Long live the priests! Long live the nobles!", at a specific time during which this kind of words were very frowned upon. Brought in court during the trial, the poor bird repeated those infortunate words, sending its owners to the guillotine for being against the Revolution. Sources seem to disagree whereas the parrot was executed too, or was spared to be reeducated by a family of "good patriots".
  • Michigan Woman Convicted of Murder After Pet Parrot Repeats 'Don't F—ing Shoot' in Victim's Voice. Here's a video on it.
  • A safari park in the UK had to remove five African grey parrots as they were swearing at customers and laughing about it. The five were quarantined together originally, allowing the birds to teach each other the swear words.


Video Example(s):


Tucker Swears to a Parrot

After Tucker says a long bleeped-out swear to a parrot, it causes the parrot to repeat that exact swear, which it then takes Tucker. While hanging on the parrot, he continues to learn a bunch of new swears from the parrot, causing some of the town to hear his filthy mouth.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotInFrontOfTheParrot

Media sources: