An American fan of the children’s show Bluey on Disney+ had a difficult time after watching a recent episode of the uber-popular preschool program about the Heeler family.
Bluey tells the story of family life for the Heelers–Bluey, a blue heeler, her younger sister Bingo, a red heeler puppy, and their parents, Chilli and Bandit. It is one of the most successful shows for preschoolers and young children in the history of children’s programming. Kids love it. Adults love it, and the animated children’s show is unconventional in the topics it includes in its episodes–each one an original story–as well as for the absence of counting, shapes, and the alphabet that are typically found in many American preschool television shows.
In July 2023, The Guardian touted Bluey as “still arguably the best television series in the world” and pointed out that “every seven-minute episode is its own self-contained short story, most of them nudging at the boundaries of what a children’s show can be.”
The Heeler Family Loves Australian Slang
In addition to wowing viewers with its outside-the-box approach to educating preschoolers (and their parents), Bluey, first commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and created by Australian animator Joe Brumm, has been known to leave international fans dumbfounded–or at least scratching their heads–with its affinity for including Australian slang in its characters’ discussions.
But one fan in the U.S. recently got a double-whammy when it came to the aforementioned slang, as he was not only clueless about the meaning of the term, but he also got the term itself wrong altogether, thanks in part to the heelers’ adorable Australian accent.
You Gotta Know Your “Boom Chickens”
An American fan of the beloved Australian children’s show named Rick watched an episode of Bluey titled “Piggyback.” The episode doesn’t tackle any deep topics, but the fan found himself completely lost as the Heeler family is walking in the park, sees a bird, and suddenly shouts, “Boom chicken!” Or so he thought.
It appears the fan had a difficult time determining what exactly Chilli and Bingo meant when they called out to the unsuspecting “boom chicken.” So, he did what any self-respecting social media-savvy Bluey fan would do; the American viewer took to social media to post an image of Bluey and her sister Bingo and asked for fellow fans’ help in determining what the two heelers meant.
“Can anyone tell me about these birds?” the viewer asked on a Facebook page for adult fans of Bluey. “I’ve seen them in several episodes.”
The “Clueless” American Gets a Lesson in Ornithology
“Are they calling them ‘boom-chickens?'” read one of the first responses. “Someone fill this clueless American in, please!”
In Australian slang, a bin chicken is used to describe a native bird known as a white ibis. The Australian bird is typically seen in the cities and can be found rummaging through trash cans or rubbish bins, as is somewhat more common in Australia. So Aussies often refer to the white ibis as bin chickens.
The Facebook page for adult fans of the Bluey show seems to be a place for a really nice group of people, as many–Australians and non-Australians alike–were only too happy to help Rick with a lesson or two in ornithology–the study of birds–related specifically to this bin chicken about which the Heelers speak.
“It’s a Bin Chicken,” wrote one fan in response to Rick’s plea for understanding. “They are actually called a White Ibis.”
Another Australian fan wrote, “Us Aussies call them a bin chicken as they are always scavenging in the bin (trash); I have also heard seagulls called beach chickens. Lol.”
A few Bluey fans shared responses that made it sound as though they had some terrible experiences with the Australian white ibis in their childhoods.
“I personally have been terrified of them since I was a kid,” wrote one fan, while another posted, “They are huge, have a massive pointy beak, and do not fear humans at all! Nightmare fuel.”
One U.S. fan came to the rescue for Rick, likening the bin chicken to its supposed American counterpart, albeit a raccoon, which is also known for its scavenging abilities.
‘”[In the U.S.,] we call raccoons trash pandas,” she wrote.
What is This “Bin Chicken?”
The term bin chicken refers to the Australian White Ibis. According to NativeSymbols.info, the white ibis from Down Under isn’t only a bird, however; it’s “many things.”
To agriculturalists, ibises are regarded as one of the most useful and valuable birds due to the large quantities of crop-damaging grasshoppers and other insects they consume. They are also fond of human scraps and, like seagulls, may be a common sight scavenging at a bin, park, or dump. Sacred, highly adaptive, the butt of jokes, and a nuisance – Ibis is many things!
Australian Geographic describes the white ibis as “striking:”
“They are striking birds, large and cream-colored, muck-stained as they stride down the street, leaping onto bin rims with defiant integrity and dunking their bald, wrinkled heads into unknown waste.
Their face tapers to a bizarre curved beak often lost in a saucy kebab wrapper. They strut about on long legs and toes, scaly and leprous like their heads. Making them stranger yet, their tails are adorned with frayed black feathers, while the undersides of their wings bear a red-raw streak of an arm.”
The same publication also states that the so-called bin chicken is the butt of many Aussie jokes. Some Australians can’t stand the trash bin-dwelling birds, as evidenced by 8,000 sign-ups for International Glare at Ibises Day in 2016–an event at which participants congregated at local parks to glare at and “show general distaste toward ibises.”
On the other hand, the ibis has become a bit of an icon with a fan following in some parts of Australia. In 2017, the refuse-loving bird won second place in a vote for the country’s most popular bird. And in recent years, the Australian white ibis has found its way across multiple digital media platforms. Songs have even been written about the bird–some with messages about protecting them and other wildlife and others with expletive-laden messages that refer to the bird as “bin-drinking,” “alien,” and “scabby.”
Perhaps it just depends on who you ask. But for Bluey and Bingo, the bin chicken is clearly something worth catching . . . and perhaps counting as a friend.