The Case of the Gary-lous Parrot

Status: Seems to be an urban legend reported as news
Remember that story about the British parrot that kept squawking the phrase "I love you, Gary", thereby revealing to its owner, Chris Taylor, that his girlfriend was having an affair with a guy named Gary? It was all over the news about a week ago. (Charybdis posted it in the forum.) Well, it's looking more and more like the story was bogus. The couple has been refusing offers of thousands of pounds to get their photo taken with the parrot. In fact, it's not clear that the couple even exists since the freelance reporters who produced the story are the only ones who have access to them. The New York Times has posted a correction to its original story about the parrot:

An article on Wednesday about infidelity exposed by a chatty parrot described the way the parrot, owned by a man living with his girlfriend in Leeds, England, kept screeching the name of the woman's secret lover. When the parrot said "I love you, Gary," in what sounded like the woman's voice, her boyfriend (whose name is not Gary) broke up with her. Although the article reported that the information had been obtained from reports in The Daily Telegraph and other British newspapers, The Times could not verify the former couple's accounts because the information was given to the British press by a freelance journalist who charged for the account. The Times does not pay for information. The Times should have disclosed fully to readers why we relied on other news reports. Or, perhaps it would have been prudent, given that condition, for The Times to have resisted parroting the episode at all.

The New York Daily News encountered similar difficulties when it tried to track down the couple, leading it to speculate that the entire thing was a case of an urban legend reported as news:

When The News' Adam Nichols investigated the tale, he found strikingly similar ones earlier in the year, in Israel and Germany. When contacted, freelancer Paul Hardaker, who wrote the original story, would not give up his sources. "You see the same stories about parrots over and over, going back hundreds of years," explained urban legend expert David Mikkelson, who runs the Web site "I really have a hard time believing that there are that many people who are caught by parrots blurting out their lovers' names."

Animals Sex/Romance

Posted on Tue Jan 24, 2006


Thats actually really funny. Parrots require constant vigillance and patience to get them to sing even one sentance. And this parot gets it in one go? Just by hearing the people speaking? Jeah, right.
Posted by Lady Hedoniste  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  10:37 PM
So the parrot also mimiked the female voice of the girlfriend. I guess this rules out the boyfriend cheating on the girlriend with Gary!
Posted by Craig  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  12:11 PM
Why is it reporters are such suckers? Shouldn't this story have sent up flags for everyone that is suppose to be the street smart, skeptical, truth seeker, that reporters always claim to be? What is worse is once one news source picks it up, they all pick it up from the same source. As a result you have multiple agencies "confirming" the same story but based on a single lie. So when people say they saw the story on multiple news outlets, everyone tends to assume every agency found, and confirmed the story themselves.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  10:20 PM
I actually have a parrot, an african gray, that repeats parts of phone conversations. She picks up on everything. We got her after my uncle and aunt got divorced because she was cheating on him with a man she met over the internet. We didn't know about this until we asked my uncle after we had the bird for a few weeks and she kept saying "I love you John, I miss you, I can't wait to see you." The parrot was kept in their office in their house where most phone calls were made, so we're guessing she picked it up from this. Certain types of parrots are actually really smart though and after they pick up their first couple words pick up more very quickly.
Posted by Liz  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  09:43 AM
for the record, i grew up with parrots of varying sorts and currently own two, one of whom is a baby amazon, and he has picked up random snippets of conversation after one go. my sister's conure started singing that weird song played by the all-girl japanese band toward the end of Kill Bill after hearing it once and his favorite thing to say is "hey baby," which he heard a friend say one time... so... while sometimes it requires vigilance, that's not always necessarily the case.

wouldn't surprise me if the story was a hoax though.
Posted by tristan  on  Fri Jun 02, 2006  at  01:42 PM
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