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Victor the Talking Budgie
Status: In my opinion, a case of parrot pareidolia
image Victor is (or rather was) a budgie that, according to its owner, could speak in context. In other words, Victor could not only mimic words, as many birds can, but also carry on meaningful conversations. Victor has been a topic of discussion on the internet for over four years. However, I just became aware of him thanks to an email from Gretel Shuvzwichinstov. So here are the basic facts about Victor, as I understand them:

Victor belonged to Ryan Reynolds who, as he became aware that Victor was saying intelligible things, began to record him. Victor's conversations go something like this: Victor so cute. What will you do for Victor? Give me some carrot. I get lots of cheese, mmmm, cheese, cheese. So I talk too fast, so whatever! Reynolds has made many audio recordings of Victor available on his website. There are also videos of Victor speaking. Victor died in 2000, so it's impossible for anyone else to study him. Which is one of the reasons why a lot of people suspect Victor is simply an elaborate hoax concocted by Reynolds.

Another reason why this all might be a hoax is that budgies are not generally known for being able to carry on meaningful conversations. Also, Reynolds seems to be one of the very few people who can extract anything intelligible out of the weird noises Victor made. Though I can definitely catch the occasional word, most of Victor's squawks sound like something out of The Exorcist to me. I half suspect that if you played them backwards, you'd discover Victor was muttering Satanic curses in ancient Aramaic. If the Electronic Voice Phenomena advocates (the people who swear they can hear coffee pots talking to them) got hold of Victor, they would probably conclude he was channelling spirits from beyond.

In Reynolds' favor, he seems to passionately believe in Victor and, more generally, in the idea that birds possess the capacity for complex speech. He states that:

A majority of the people that come to this site embrace it for what it really is. A truthful study of a talking parrot that could speak in conversational language. However the claims that some make about it being a hoax are ridiculous and have no grounds whatsoever. Individuals who make these claims should understand that they are slandering me, especially if they say it in an open forum in writing. I do not take this lightly as I have worked very hard on these sites during the past few years to be libeled so unfairly.

So my hunch is that Reynolds is sincere (i.e. this isn't a deliberate hoax), but he's convinced himself there's something meaningful in a bird's random chatter. Making this an example of audio pareidolia.
AnimalsPareidolia
Posted by The Curator on Sun Oct 23, 2005


That is not what budgees sound like when they talk. The voice is much to human when you CAN understand it. It is obviously someones voice edited someone you can do great things with sound equipment.
Posted by Tim  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  12:33 PM
You can clearly see the bird breathing in as it "speaks" in the second video.

"The goal for the month of Oct on this website is $50. Please show your support and make a contribution to support the cost of maintaining the site. "

Cashing in on a dead parakeet. I may set up a pay-pal account for the squirrel I shot yesterday. When alive, it could fly. Not like a flying squirrel, like an f-18 Hornet. 600mph+.

Listen to the audio files, there's an audible air intake sound- sometimes large ones- that would fill fifty parakeet's lungs, from the sound of them. It's a person.

Oh, and a parakeet's brain... never mind. I wonder if this fools anyone?

"However the claims that some make about it being a hoax are ridiculous and have no grounds whatsoever. Individuals who make these claims should understand that they are slandering me, especially if they say it in an open forum in writing."

Mr. Reynolds, your claim that victor spoke in lucid, thoughtful ways is ridiculous and has no ground whatsoever. There are easier ways to make money on the internet.
Posted by raoulduke  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  03:56 PM
Parrots and parakeets and some other birds can indeed talk-- that is, they can pronounce words-- but no one has ever succeeded in showing that they know the meaning of anything they say. Yesterday, I saw a parrot in a show say a dozen different words and sing parts of two songs. Did any of that mean anything to the parrot? Yes, it meant, "If I make this noise when my trainer gives that signal, I'll get a treat." Anything more than that? Not on your life.

The same thing is true (at least in my opinion) of the various apes that supposedly learned to "talk" in sign language or by some other means. When I was in graduate school, I reviewed considerable literature about the ape/language studies that were hugely popular in the 1970s and into the 1980s. Apes can certainly learn to make hand signs, just as birds can imitate sounds, but does the sign have any meaning to the ape? Not much, it seems. Claims that the apes knew what they were saying and could even construct grammatical sentences turned out to be based on cooked data and biased observation. A book called "Aping Language" by Joel Wallman gave a good overview of this research, if you're interested in this question.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  05:24 PM
"Satanic curses in ancient Aramaic"??? Alex, you are FUNNY!!!
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Mo  on  Mon Oct 24, 2005  at  07:00 AM
Wrong Little Gary, there's an African Gray that can count accurately. And many other examples of similar behavior in other Greys, Macaws and Amazons, to name a few. But these are all bigger birds, with bigger brains.
Posted by Craig  on  Mon Oct 24, 2005  at  07:29 AM
If the Electronic Voice Phenomena advocates (the people who swear they can hear coffee pots talking to them) got hold of Victor, they would probably conclude he was channelling spirits from beyond.


Ha!!!!!!
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Mon Oct 24, 2005  at  09:21 AM
Craig, I am aware of the claims that certain parrots (especially African Grays, which are apparently more clever than most) have learned to count, name shapes and colors correctly, and even do more abstract tasks. But I'm not aware of any report that any of them have ever performed these tests correctly when their trainers were not present.

Any claims of animals displaying human-like intelligence have to pass the "Clever Hans" test before they can be taken seriously. Clever Hans was a horse in Germany (circa 1900 or so). His owner believed that Hans could solve math problems and answer various abstract questions (he tapped his hoof to indicate numerical answers and moved his head to signal "yes" or "no"). However, careful tests revealed that Hans could give the correct answers only when his owner/trainer was in the room. And he could never answer a question correctly if his owner didn't know the answer. It turned out the owner was signalling with his eyes (probably unconsciously) when Hans should start and stop tapping his hoof. If Hans was posed with a question when he couldn't see his owner, he would just tap away until somebody stopped him.

So animals have to be able to solve the problems when there's no chance of anyone giving them any hints before we should give them credit.

I'm not saying that animals don't have intelligence; they are very intelligent in some ways, but animal intelligence is not the same kind of intelligence that we have. A dog knows far more about scents than I'll ever know, but he's really lousy at Scrabble.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Mon Oct 24, 2005  at  04:42 PM
I read an article about the sign language gorilla Koko that said much the same thing that Big Gary stated. Independant researchers found that much of her intelligence seems to come from unconcious clues from her keepers as well as overly liberal interpretation of her signing.

I don't believe they were able to conduct experiments away from her keepers, but even so they raised serious questions about her capacity to communicate in sign language.

There is information on the web about this, but it seems to be a rather taboo topic.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Mon Oct 24, 2005  at  05:44 PM
The voice of Victor sounded kind of fake to me too, but not being familiar with how budgie's are supposed to sound, I figured that maybe a bird could sound like that. Plus, if the voice was fake, why wouldn't he have made Victor speak more clearly?
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Oct 25, 2005  at  01:51 AM
I certainly don't believe Victor was all Reynolds claimed him to be, and I don't think he approached sentience. I will say, though, that Reynolds obviously spent a LOT of time with the bird, and it's not inconceivable that Victor spit out TONS of word-sounds over time, and learned which ones got him the best response. Reynolds wants to believe, does some picking and choosing, a little loose translation here and there.. sure, why not. smile People have believed in weirder things.

I don't know if these are true recordings, but I've had many a talking parakeet, and it SOUNDS like one. The breathing heard in the audio could be anything, including a vocalization, so I doubt anyone will ever prove that the recordings are real/fake.

That said, I have had many birds who could speak situationally. One would see me in the morning gathering my keys and purse to leave for work, and began saying "bye bye" as I touched the doorknob to leave.. a phrase we had learned for "food time is over" and "I'm walking away from the cage now." Did he understand I was going bye-bye? Of course not. He just recognized the routine and knew that the door was the last part of it, and that interaction was now over. He didn't understand the word or concept, but he knew the "bye-bye" SOUND should be repeated in that situation, because it pleased me, and when I was pleased, he got good stuff like attention and treats. smile

Birds ARE hella smart. Not as smart as Victor is claimed to be, but I can totally see Reynolds believing it. Shoot, some people believe their dogs and cats are speaking. smile How much easier when actual words (sounds) are coming out of the animal? smile
Posted by Steph  in  Hawaii  on  Tue Oct 25, 2005  at  02:42 AM
My parents had a dog that could say words situationally. When it wanted to go out it would say "Ooouuuuuuttttt". I swear it would. And it would only make this noise when it wanted to go out.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Oct 25, 2005  at  11:10 AM
I watched one of the videos, and I honestly dont believe it. Haha..the voice sounds more like satan than any bird Ive ever heard speak. Ive seen birds that recognize babys and say things like "pretty baby"...but theyll also call cats and other things pretty babies too. I dont know.

But I do hear the crows are supposedly the smartest of birds and that they can memorize more phrases than the common parrot...I wonder though.
Posted by Jenna  on  Tue Oct 25, 2005  at  05:39 PM
This is turning into a pretty interesting conversation.

Steph, I think your assessment of birds' level of awareness and their language ability is about the same as mine, if you read what I said about parrots, apes, and Clever Hans.

My grandmother once had a dog (a poodle mix) who would answer whatever we said to him with speech-like vocalizations and emotional-sounding inflections, but pronounce words? No, he didn't do that.

Uh, Jenna ... how exactly do you KNOW what Satan's voice sounds like? ... unless, of course you're Jenna Bush, in which case, no further explanation is needed.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Tue Oct 25, 2005  at  07:02 PM
I think the video and audio clips are true recordings of a Parakeet and that the bird may have understood some context, though most of it was probably rehearsed.
Victor isn't the only Parakeet that did this sort of thing btw.
(http://www.budgieresearch.homestead.com/
also a group @ Yahoo:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/budgieresearch/)

To me, it sounds like a parakeet.

I've owned many parakeets before and have just adopted an abused one recently (Zeus).
He is very quiet, but when I play an audio clip from the victor site he goes nuts. Same as when he hears outside birds.

Occasionally Zeus will say Pretty Bird, and I assure you, same creepy satanic voice type thing as Victor.



The "air-intake" sound in the mic is just noise from a cheap PC mic, the mic was being moved, OR there was an airflow of some kind (which isn't really good for birds).


I see nothing wrong with the second video, though my eyes are not the best. What you may be seeing is the file compression of the .wmv format messing with the way audio lines up with visual.


None of these are done with any spectacular equpiment. You can't line up everything completely in a video and you can't have audio without noise unless it is an actual sound studio with eggcartons for walls. Even then the sound & video software can cost a fortune, unless you spend the time downloading it from limewire and then get your PC messed up while finding a serial.
Also if he were to get ultra top quality a MAC would have been necessary <- not biased, I don't even own a MAC.


(I use a TV Tuner card on one of my PCs and have it hooked up to a VCR to record VHS -> .Mpeg2 for recording to DVD via S-Video and RCA. THIS doesn't even line up 100% of the time.
I also use a digital camera which, of course, has a record video option. I play in an Orchestra and the recording of the concerts w/ the camera are a little off. This is obvious during rests or solos; when the sound of a solo begins and the video of an orchestra still moves.)


The reason he probably wants $ donated is because it costs money to host as many files as he has on there. He probably has a gig of info.
Free webspace does Not provide a gig, unless you have free access to servers. He uses Homestead apparently...and Bravenet services.
Bravenet costs 0-7$/mo
Homestead costs from 10-40$/month.
Supposedly the site that hosts the videos is only a one time fee of $20 - you know how that deal works lol.

I don't know the policies of these places so he may be charged more or less depending on the rates at the time.
Either way, this site is costing him, I doubt he makes much profit.


didn't mean for this to be long...
I could be wrong about the whole thing, and I'm open to it. If not for research, at least enjoy it for entertainment.

The idea of making lunch money (college student) off of false recordings is a bit intriguing.
Posted by Meg  in  Florida  on  Fri Nov 04, 2005  at  09:23 AM
I got two parakeets two days ago ,the first six hours they wouldn't move from there perch .But now they act as if i was there mother .Parakeets can be so affectionet. Whenever i sing '" donwtown" by Patoola clark they light up and sing along { by singing i mean chirp and squak}
Posted by caitlin  in  altoona Iowa  on  Sat Nov 19, 2005  at  08:45 PM
It is always obvious to me who is a "bird person" and who just likes to jack their jaws about something they know nothing about. Let me make a few points:

1) Due to the way birds talk, their "mouth" (beak) seldom looks the way you would expect it to when saying certain words. For instance, humans have to to close their mouth to say the word "pickle". Birds don't. The "P" sound, as well as all other sounds are NOT created by the position of their beak. They are created in whole by their speaking mechanism in the back of their throat. For instance, when my African Grey makes a kissing sound, his beak is wide open the whole time. When he says "Don't bite", his beak is wide open. You have to see it to understand it.
2) You have to spend considerable time around budgies to understand them. There's no other way to put it.
3) I have 2 budgies, as well as a cockatoo, a cockatiel and an African Grey. I know what they sound like and Victor sounds like a budgie. Period. What do you expect him to sound like, Brad Pitt?
4) Just because you don't understand him doesn't mean he isn't communicating. Judging from most of your posts, you prabably have a hard time understanding english. Because I've owned birds since I was 14 (Im now 45), I have no reason to believe Mr. Reynolds is concocting a hoax.
Posted by Brian  in  Phoenix  on  Wed Mar 29, 2006  at  05:18 PM
I have always had a parakeet, and they all have learned to talk. Ofcoarse they aren't as intelligent as Victor, but they do mimmick words and phrases. They also have been able to make sounds like kissing, purring, whistling and clicking. Unfortunately two of my parakeets died, but I have the smartest and the most lovable one now. He lets me scratch his neck and rub of his spikes (new feathers). I love all the things he says, and he says things around me that he doesn't around other people, such as "I love you, yes I do!" or "I'm a pretty bird." He's a very intelligent bird and plan to teach him many other things. Victor is now my inspiration. Thanks you!
Posted by Maya Dite-Bosworth  in  Denver, Colorado  on  Tue Jun 20, 2006  at  11:39 AM
i just have to say my budgie had a great vocabuary, when he heard money gingle he asked for crisps as he assosiated money with shops and shops with crisps, he would chirp dad home when key rattled in the door, he repeated just about every thing good and bad so i know they do have some understanding of the language we speak, i could go on and on about the way my budgie was although i have no proof other than people whom were around at the time, but i do know that they can know the sound of the word followed by the action, it is possible i know it is
Posted by lee  in  scotland  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  06:28 PM
Despite my tag, I have several birds. Over the years, I have had several very intelligent budgies. They can learn to speak and they do associate certain comments with certain actions and items. For instance, my last budgie, Stupid, (He go his name because if there was a cat in the room, he would fly right into it. Reminiscent of doggie suicide?) was probably my best talker. He would clearly state "Get away from there" when any of our cats would come near the cage, mimicking me for the first few weeks after I rescued him. He would also say "Nite-nite" every evening about 10PM. That was our clue to cover the cage so he could go to bed and would continue until his cage was covered. He was never more than 10 min off. I did not have a clock in the room nor did I own anything that chimed. He would do this no matter what the conditions in the room were at the time if the cage was uncovered. (light on/off, I was present or not, etc.) If I covered the cage early, he would pip nite-nite once, right on time.

Back to topic, the recordings do sound genuine and there are a few clear words and short phrases. Stupid had about 5 total phrases that were really clear, with the longest being 4 words. The recordings are of low quality and so may not be as clear as "in person", but it does stretch realism a bit. I think that while the bird was speaking, and to a limited extent, understanding the context of what it was saying, I see this as a mild case of pareidolia. Mr. Reynolds is reading more into what the bird is saying than there really is. I am guilty of this. To me and my other half, our birds speak quite clearly, but to others that are not around them much, most of it is babble.
Posted by Lounge Lizard  in  El Paso, Tx  on  Wed Jul 05, 2006  at  08:25 PM
Hey folks,

I was a member of the budgie research group. And the story is much--much weirder than you could imagine.

I started with the group and soon noticed that anyone who doubted the intelligence and talking abilities of budgies was censored and removed: so I stop checking in. However, as a member of a yahoo group, you do nothing, so I never unsubscribed.

A couple of days ago I got an email from Ryan Reynolds. After reviewing victor recordings that are six years old, he now believes that victor made prophecies that reiterate the bibilical texts of Daniel. He believes that budgies the world over are leading humans into a new Christianity. I made a post poking fun at the idea. The group has a censorship committee--they are not clandestine about it--they readily admit it. The censorship committee altered my post--posted it--and then purported it to come from me. I caught it because the new author mispelled my screen name within the post! When I pointed this out I was banned from the group.
Basically, they had no problem with my dissenting view as long as they could alter it and ad their own criticism to the post so it could not stand alone. But as soon as I called them out on their censorship, I was banned.

Folks, it is worth getting a yahoo account and signing up for this group just to see the weird stuff. It is the craziest thing I have ever seen. A budgie that predicted the future six years ago! Budgies can live 20 years and this guy couldn't keep it alive for two. He actually forbids discussion of budgie sickness on the site and I would suspect because he is sensitive about being a negligent owner.

Go see it!! I can't anymore because I'm banned smile
Posted by taliesma (yahoo screen name)  in  Kansas  on  Sat Aug 26, 2006  at  10:52 PM
Listen, I know Victor's talking is something out of the ordinary. AND, when I read that someone doesn't believe budgies can speak in context, that's all a hoax, I've got some news for you. My bird is 8mths old now, and he has a vocabulary of apprx 20 words. Before i even got a chance to ask him for a kiss goodbye before work, he landed on my shoulder and distinctly said" I wanna kiss you". If that's not depicting "context" and emotion, I don't know what is. Go out there, get a budgie and put him/her to the test. Some budgies don't talk at all, others say a few words as habit. Mine is beginning to act like Victor, saying words in phrases to me already. My boyfriend and I seem to ignore my bird when we're together (he lives outta town), and my bird also said to me after biting me and quite primitively actually, "You, Robbie, then no Edward." That's emotion expressed baby, so stick it in yer science pipe and smoke it!
Posted by BirdLover  on  Fri Apr 13, 2007  at  03:30 PM
I know I'm late to the Victor party here but I'll just add to the other past and current budgie owners to confirm that, yes, they DO sound like that. The last thing fictional about this Victor thing is the voice and recordings. They're straight. Spend a couple years around a babbling parakeet and you'd agree, no brainer. Hell, the most talkative bird I had when I was a kid I recorded with my own crappy gear and it sounded just like this. I've long since worked in audio professionally, so my ear is pretty good about these things. In fact, I have a project right now that calls for some parrot talking, and I've quickly realized that faking these things is pretty much impossible because humans usually sound like humans however much you process them. Likewise, birds distinctly sound like birds. There's huge difference.

As to the babbling, well, I think this last posting about the Christian prophesies tidies up this Reynolds cat's assertions, doesn't it? Sure, once birds get the hang of picking up speech, other bird calls, noises, they just keep working on it all the time, cranking out endless and indecipherable gibberish. Normal stuff.
Posted by trg - san francisco  on  Sat Apr 14, 2007  at  03:47 AM
Wait.. what? You think that Victor the talking budgie was a hoax because he knew too many words?
I have a budgie who just turned 2 years old and he knows (easily) over 200 words and phrases.
He learns from us, the tv, radio, whatever! Just recently he has been saying "I wanna be a pirate!".
Parakeets (Budgies) are very smart animals. They can learn quickly.
Posted by Dayna  on  Sun Jun 03, 2007  at  08:19 PM
Fascinating! BTW, the web links for "Victor the talking parrot" are all gone. Also, "Ryan Reynolds" is the name of a movie star so trying to locate this one (the budgie talker) is futile.

In any event, i was fascinated by his reasoning that a budgie thinks much faster than we do owing to his smaller brain. There is som credence to that as they are quick little buggers. As for thinking, it is pretty clear that Ryan is suffering from a lack of formal training in science, but it was fun and provocative for a bit!
Posted by Incredulous  in  Beaumont, TX  on  Sat Aug 18, 2007  at  01:07 PM
Can anyone tell me if it still conventional wisdom not to breed a talking parakeet. I have a talking male that I would like to breed, but I am told that if I bring a female parakeet into the house my male will stop talking as I breed him.
Posted by Richard  in  florida  on  Wed Feb 27, 2008  at  11:04 AM
Obviously those who do not think that Victor is really talking in these videos are the ones who are really out of touch with reality. Also the last comments from taliesma show the reason why she was banned from the group as she was nothing but a trouble maker who does not have any compassion for people who have lost a pet they loved. I have 3 budgies now that are over 8 years old and are in excellent health.

If you check out some of the videos of Victor you will hear him talk about God on several occasions as well as many other budgies in our group.

I admit I have changed my spiritual direction in life because of some of the things that budgies have said about God but we all have the right to believe what we want when it comes to God and spirituality.
Posted by Ryan Reynolds  in  Canada  on  Thu Sep 25, 2008  at  07:39 AM
If you click on my link, it goes to the web page for my departed budgie friend, Spanky, who knew lots of words and phrases; there are links to a sound file of him talking, and youtube videos.

Spanky was a real joy and he was my first budgie. After having him, I feel a little sorry for people who haven't experienced firsthand how intelligent and loving these creatures are. Anyone who hasn't fallen in love with a bird just has no idea...and shouldn't speak about what they don't know. It is a real experience.

Do they speak in context? Victor does seem to know an awful lot of words. I don't believe the prophecy stuff, but I wouldn't rule out that Victor was talking in context at least some of the time. There are too many words that sound exactly like what he's saying, and that's definitely a budgie voice.

There is so much not yet known about animal intelligence. And in terms of body weight relative to the weight of the brain, budgies actually have quite large brains.

My budgie, Buster, refuses to give me a kiss if I've let his cage get too dirty. When this happens he turns his little head away over and over...just won't do it. I always go and clean it right away and he will immediately give me a sweet little nibble kiss when it is clean.
Posted by Lowflyin Lolana  in  Los Angeles, CA  on  Mon Apr 06, 2009  at  10:12 PM
sorry. here's the link.
http://angelfire.com/journal2/other_side/spankymemorial.html
Posted by Lowflyin Lolana  in  Los Angeles, CA  on  Mon Apr 06, 2009  at  10:19 PM
I can see Spanky was wonderful and quite the little character. I watched the video and he is so cute. Loved the way he played with that ball. I added him to my favorites on you tube.

By the way, I understand about the prophecy and spiritual stuff. That is a hard pill for any one to swallow. Even I had a hard time with it. Anyway, I just did some new videos of Victor that I had not translated before. Since the advances in video over the past 5 years it makes them much easier to work with and understand as well. I was able to make the sound clearer and provide better captions to them. You may want to check them out.

http://www.victorthebudgie.com/videopage.html
Posted by Ryan Reynolds  in  Canada  on  Thu Apr 09, 2009  at  05:54 PM
Thanks Ryan. Who knows all the ways God speaks to us?

What's important is that we find ways to listen.
Posted by Lowflyin Lolana  in  Los Angeles, CA  on  Thu Apr 09, 2009  at  06:19 PM
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