How do Parrots talk?

parrots talk

One of the reasons that people love parrots so much is because of their pension for being so chatty.

These birds can mimic a variety of sounds and words. This makes for some very amusing and entertaining moments.

If you have a parrot or want to get one, you’ll want to know how they talk.

Bird Vocalization Biology

Birds don’t have lips like humans, yet they are still able to formulate words with an eerie degree of accuracy. This is due to special membranes that that vibrate to create what sounds like talking to their owners. 

The bird’s larynx does not play a part in its speech, but rather another part of their throat called the syrinx. This part can be found just underneath the larynx in the trachea or wind pipe. It is essentially what allows them to talk by altering the pressure of the air that comes into their lungs and through the syrinx.

Parrots, parakeets, crows and ravens can all “talk” in the sense that they can emit sounds that resemble words very closely. One of the most impressive things about these birds is that they can emit multiple sounds at once. This is due to the fact that they can control each side of their syrinx independently.

A bird’s tongue also plays an important part in their ability to talk. It allows them to produce certain sounds, including “m”, “w” and “p”. A bird’s ability to speak all comes down to the wiring in their brain. This is something that is deeply ingrained in them from thousands of years of evolution.

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screaming parrot

Motivation Behind Talking

Avian researchers have speculated that these animals repeat words they hear out of a desire to fit in. So this is basically your pet parrot’s way of trying to be a part of your flock/family. It is very unlikely that your bird has any idea clue about the meaning behind what they are saying, but that’s not really important. They are just doing whatever they can to become a part of your family because it is in their nature to do so.

We feel closer to our pet birds when they speak to us, even though they probably don’t understand the meaning of the words they repeat. This is actually the exact intended effect from the bird’s standpoint. They want to be closer to you by vocalizing, and that is exactly what they accomplish with it.

Teaching Parrots to Talk

Parrots are generally regarded as being very intelligent, and their ability to mimic human speech is just one manifestation of that. These animals are very easy to train, even for those who are particularly impatient.

One of the best tips that you can follow when training your parrot to talk is to add some flare to the words you want them to learn so they stand out. You can say these words with an unusual inflection or tone of voice to increase the chances of them picking it up. The more interested the bird is in how the word sounds, the more likely they are to repeat it.

You can actually buy CDs online and in pet supply stores that are made specifically to get parrots and other birds to talk. These CDs tend to work pretty well, but you should really teach your bird directly too. 

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You don’t want any training session to last more than 15 to 20 minutes, as they will quickly become annoyed. Overwhelming your bird by trying to teach it too much at once can have the opposite intended effect.

Once your bird starts speaking on its own, you can get it to learn new words by saying them over and over. It is important to keep in mind that some parrots learn faster than others. You might have to be a little patient with your pet at first. It also depends on the word, as some of them are harder than others for these animals to repeat back.

two parrots talk

The Practical Side of Parrot Speech

There is definitely a practical reason to teach your parrot to speak. For example, you can train it to tell you which treat or toy it wants. While it might take a little bit for your pet to learn what you are asking it, they will catch on eventually. This makes their speech more than just a highly amusing entertainment. It can certainly make getting along with and taking care of your pet bird a little bit easier.

What are the Limits of a Parrot’s Speech?

Parrots are only capable of learning so many words, but many of them can repeat hundreds. Researchers have discovered that these birds can learn to identify up to 50 unique objects, shapes and colors. You can get your parrot to tell you how many of a certain object there is in front of it.

The African Grey Parrot is capable of learning up to 1,000 words, if not more. There is really no telling how many words a given bird can learn.

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  • Parrots and other birds are capable of speaking due to a certain part of their throat called the syrinx, which is located near the larynx.
  • The tongue and throat play an important role in a bird’s ability to speak.
  • Birds most likely speak to their human owners as a way of trying to become part of the “flock” or family. It is essentially them trying to fit in.
  • While your parrot might not understand exactly what it is saying, it does enjoy speaking.
  • When you are training your bird to speak, you shouldn’t go for longer than 20 minutes a time. This can overwhelm your pet, which can make training it more difficult.
  • There are CDs that you can buy at pet stores to train your parrot how to talk.
  • Training your bird to speak can help you know which type of food it wants on any given day, which can be quite useful.
  • Many birds, including the African Grey parrot, can learn up to 1,000 different words over their lifespan.