Do you have a talking parrot?

For many owners a talking parrot is one of the most sought after goals during the taming process. But this goal should not be rushed at the expense of neglecting other more basic training: the first steps are to bond with your new pet and have it behaving well during supervised sessions outside of its cage or aviary. You can start the confidence building process by feeding your parrot from your hand. Training sessions should be limited to just five minutes so that your bird does not become tired.

Chose your Species Carefully
The ability of parrots talking varies between species, and even within the same species some birds simply turn out to be better mimics than others. It is generally accepted that the African Grey Parrot is the most talented mimic, however, it is a budgerigar named Puck that is listed in the Guinness World Records as having the largest vocabulary of any bird, at 1,728 words. You should carefully research parrot species if talking is an important criteria as you cannot make the assumption that all parrots are talented communicators, the Meyers parrot for example is a lovable bird, but quite quiet. The blue fronted Amazon parrot is another talented mimic. The African Grey:

Parrots Talking African Grey

Training Tips
Once you have selected a suitable pet some of these tips have success in getting parrots taking:

  • Parrots tend to respond better to the voices of women and children than those of men
  • A hand-raised parrot will start talking earlier than one reared by its parents, but in both cases patience is important. As a benchmark consider that an Africa Grey will typically start talking only at around six months
  • Ensure the room is quiet when you conduct the training
  • Allocate time to run through your training session, but rather than one long session, it is better to have multiple shorter sessions so that your pet does not become tired. A five minute session where words are spoken clearly at a steady pace works well
  • Parrots will mimic one another more readily than humans when they are kept together

Check out these talented parrots talking…

Why Can Parrots Talk?
Parrots have the ability to learn how to call, which is quite different from other birds and animals which are genetically predisposed to have a specific call that is uniform across the species (with differences between the male and female the only typical variation). Parrots talking ability is called imitative vocal learning and there are a number of theories as to why parrots have this skill including: development of unique dialects so that strangers and member of their own flock alike can be identified, and as a means of demonstrating their intelligence to potential mates. When parrots are held in captivity this imitative vocal learning is directed to mimicking the human members of its social group, or if it is with other birds these too will be mimicked.

Can Parrots Understand what they Are Saying?
It was always thought that birds were simply just mimics until a 30-year study of an African Grey Parrot was undertaken by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg. The study demonstrated that the parrot, Alex, had basic reasoning skills and could use words creatively. Pepperberg put forward the view that Alex has the intellectual level of a five year old human and in July 2005, she reported that Alex understood the concept of zero. However, whilst Alex’s abilities sound impressive some scientists reject the experiments as flawed and the results as false. Perhaps the only way for you to get a satisfactory answer to this question is to get your own pet parrot and chat away!

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