About Teaching Your Parrot to Talk



First let me say that not all parrots will talk. Even those species that are known to be good talkers don't always talk. It's rare to see an African Grey who won't speak, but it happens. If you are getting a parrot just because you want a talking parrot, you are getting him or her for the wrong reason. Remember above all, parrots are loving, adorable, long term companions, not something to play with when you have the time, or a room decoration.

Ok, now that you understand that, do you know which parrots are talkers and which are not? African Greys, of course, talk as do Macaws, Amazons, and some Cockatoos. Did you know that Budgies and Cockatiels also talk? What about Ringnecks? Take some time to make sure that your parrot is one of those species who is capable of talking, you'd be surprised how many there are.

The first step in teaching your parrot to talk is repetition. If you want to hear it, say itÖ a lot. Make a ritual out of certain phrases, such as saying "Good Morning Samson" each morning as you uncover your bird. When you hand over a favorite treat take a moment to say "mmmm.....Good". This is the best method for teaching your bird to speak. Some people advocate the use of recordings, but I have to warn you that while hearing "Pretty bird" once in a while feels fantastic, hearing it 300 times in a row can be a bit hair raising.  Speak to your bird in context.  "Do you want to take a bath, Rosie?"  Once they start understanding, you will be surprised how fast they can pick up words.  Talk to them as you would a one year old child, clearly and with patience.  It really works.

Remember when teaching your bird anything, it is important that he or she hears you. Don't have the TV running in the background, music is distracting, and sometimes even other birds can be too much. Try to pick a time when your bird and you can be one on one for lessons. A bird that is listening to you and learning will show you by his body stance. He will stop and stare at you, you may notice his pupils changing (flashing), and you can tell that you are the center of his attention.

Many birds will initially begin to talk with mumbles. This is the speech emerging, and often the parrot will practice this alone. Many parrots prefer to talk only to themselves, or to the people they know and trust. Don't be surprised if you wake up some morning and hear a smorgasbord of phrases coming from Hootieís cage.

Some parrots will pick up household sounds, some of which might become annoying. It can be entertaining to hear though, its pretty funny when a bird rings like the phone and then answers itself "Hello". Itís not as entertaining when your parrot decides to imitate your alarm clock for an hour at a time. Protect your bird from picking up these nuisance sounds as best you can, remember you are the one who will have to live with them.

Speaking of nuisance sounds, remember when you speak that there are little feathered ears around. Some words and phrases you donít want the bird to say are favorites for imitation. It can be highly embarrassing to have Matisse squawk out "Oh S***!!" during the middle of a family dinner. This means you need to be careful of using profanity. It's not fair to expect a bird to learn only what you want to teach, and its heartbreaking when a parrot loses his home because of it.

Donít forget the whistles. While many people believe teaching a parrot to whistle will discourage it from talking instead; a good whistle can be a lot of fun. Most talking parrots can wolf-whistle, and a few can whistle tunes.  Make sure your whistle is clear though, if you whistle off key, your parrot will whistle off key too.

Keep in mind that while some birds might be muttering while still unweaned others begin to talk later in life. Papaya, the Jenday, never uttered a word until about 12 months of age. One day she said  "Step Up".  Connor ,the Quaker, on the other hand has been talking since we got him.  He keeps telling Harley, the Nanday, "Step Up, Harley, Step Up".  He sits in his covered cage after bedtime talking to himself.  We can hardly watch TV for laughing at his little nighttime monolog.

Enjoy your parrot, speaking is not the end of the world, itís just a fun stop on the journey.


STARescue, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 [Southeast Texas Avian Rescue, Inc.]. All rights reserved. Revised: 12/10/11