“Don’t F—ing Shoot!”: Can A Parrot Be A Witness In Court?

Forgive my interest in parrots. They’re amazing birds.

But can they testify in court?

Parrot, Green, Tropical, Bird, AnimalShould I be a stool pigeon?”


We know that a parrot (or at least a macaw) cannot be liable for sexual harassment – even if he shouts sexual remarks at a hospital employee.  The hospital can be liable, of course, for maintaining a hostile workplace.

But not the parrot.

As Judge Easterbrook said in Dunn v. Wash. County Hosp., 429 F.3d 689, 691 (7th Cir. 2005):

“Suppose a patient kept a macaw in his room, that the bird bit and scratched women but not men, and that the Hospital did nothing. The Hospital would be responsible for the decision to expose women to the working conditions affected by the macaw, even though the bird (a) was not an employee, and (b) could not be controlled by reasoning or sanctions. It would be the Hospital’s responsibility to protect its female employees by excluding the offending bird from its premises. This is, by the way, the norm of direct liability in private law as well: a person “can be subject to liability for harm resulting from his conduct if he is negligent or reckless in permitting, or failing to prevent, negligent or other tortious conduct by persons, whether or not his servants or agents, upon premises or with instrumentalities under his control.” Restatement (2d) of Agency § 213(d).”

But can a parrot be a witness at a murder trial?   Even if he, indeed, was present at a murder scene and repeatedly keeps shouting hysterically “Don’t f—ing shoot!”

When the judge asks a witness to raise their right hand, the prosecutor mused, “to a parrot, are you raising a wing, a foot?”

That’s apparently the situation in Michigan.   A man was found dead and prosecutors think he was killed by his wife.   And only an African parrot belonging to the man was a witness to this possible “fowl play.”

And he indeed is talking – non-stop, in his owner’s voice.  But is this “testimony” admissible?

Screaming ParrotI swear to tell the truth!” 

Takeaway:   This is decidedly not related to employment discrimination, despite the initial sexual harassment allusion.   I just like parrots.




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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]