Animals are amazing, right? Think bats and their sonar. Dolphins and their underwater language. Lassie’s incredible rescue instincts. Let me add another wondrous creature to the list: Howie, one of two yellow-rumped caciques living at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. These caciques, found mostly in South America, are among the birds that mimic what they hear. I can’t speak for the whole species, but parrots got nothing on Howie, whose vast sonic arsenal blew me away on a recent visit. Perched on vines inside the zoo’s Tropical America building, this little fella with lustrous black and gold feathers was spewing all kinds of jazz, sounding like, among other things, a squeaky mouse, a ray gun from an arcade game, a car alarm, an animated maniacal monkey villain, the yelp of a small terrier, and the jarring horn of an ambulance weaving through traffic. Anything, it seems, is grist for Howie. They named him that, says zookeeper Jennifer Hennessy, because it’s one of his sounds — “howie.” When he first arrived in Providence from another zoo, she says, Howie had to spend some time in quarantine. They swore he was saying, “Help! Help!” — Scott Helman
Meet Howie, Roger Williams Park Zoo loudmouth
An arsenal of sounds from a mimicking bird can be found in Providence.
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