If you’re thinking about adding a parakeet to your family, you might be wondering if they’re among the birds that can learn to imitate human speech. Can parakeets talk?
Find out all about which parakeet species are the best talkers and how you can train yours to imitate words, phrases and whistles.
Can parakeets talk?
There’s a good chance you came here looking for information on the talking abilities of the ubiquitous budgie (budgerigar). After all, even though they’re not the only parakeet species out there, they are often referred to simply as ‘parakeets’. So can budgies talk?
They can! In fact, budgies are among the best talkers out there, which is why they’re on Psittacology’s list of best talking parrots. They even hold the Guinness World Record for largest vocabulary for a bird ever (Puck the budgie) and for a living bird (Oskar the budgie).
In the wild, budgies are extremely social beings that imitate each other to integrate into the flock. Because a captive budgie sees its human companions as their flock, a well-tamed one might be inclined to start imitating speech.
Not all of them have the same level of talent, but some can acquire amazing vocabularies. The only catch? Their voices are not the best. Some would describe a budgie imitating a human as sounding more like a robot!
Tip: Want to know more about how parrots are physically able to speak and why they do it? Head over to the full post on how and why parrots talk.
Other talking parakeets
As mentioned above, budgies are not the only parakeets out there. Although they’re often called parakeets, this name is actually used for a range of different parrot species that fit certain characteristics, such as having a long tail.
Are there other talking parakeets? You betcha!
A notable talking champion is the Indian ringnecked parakeet, Psittacula krameri. They’re excellent at imitating human speech and as an added bonus, their voice is pretty funny and squeaky. Other members of the genus Psittacula, like the moustached parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) can also be quite talented.
Some other parakeets that can learn to talk are:
- Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). Not the best talkers, but they can pick up some tidbits.
- Rosellas (genus Platycercus). Limited talking abilities but will occasionally pick up some whistles and words.
- Genus Polytelis (the superb, regent and princess parakeets). Not the most common species in the trade but good talkers!
- Lineolated parakeet (Bolborhynchus lineola). Yup, and they have lovely soft voices.
- Brotogeris parakeets. Well, they try, but their voices are very raspy and unclear!
How to get your parakeet talking
If you’ve decided to add one of the species above to your family, congratulations. Although of course no one should get a parrot just for its talking abilities, it’s definitely a fun bonus and bonding opportunity.
But how do you get your parakeet talking? Some of them will just naturally pick up little tidbits they catch during daily life, but most of them won’t unless you specifically train them for it.
Luckily, talking training for parakeets is not difficult. It just requires a good portion of patience!
What influences parakeet talking?
First off, you should keep in mind that even if your parakeet is one of the ‘champion talker’ species like a budgie, that’s still no guarantee. Some of them just never pick it up.
A few factors that influence (though not guarantee) the likelihood of speaking are:
- Age. As with most animals, parakeets are easier to train when they’re still young. That applies to speaking as well.
- Tameness. If your parakeet has been socializing with humans since it was a baby, that makes it more likely to really see them as flock mates. This, in turn, increases the chances of the bird wanting to imitate their voices.
- Sex. In quite a few species, it’s the males that are the big talkers. This includes budgies and Indian ringnecks.
Tip: Don’t forget the most important factor: YOU! This is an exercise in patience for you more than it is an exercise in talking for your parakeet.
Training for parakeet talking
When it comes to actual talking training, it’s actually really not that complicated. It’s a good idea to read the guide on how to train a parakeet first: it’ll teach you about the concept of positive reinforcement and how important it is for successful training.
Once you’ve grasped the basics of how training a parrot works and your parakeet seems comfortable with your presence, you can get started.
Don’t worry if your bird doesn’t want to sit on your hands or anything like that yet. The nice thing about talking training is that birds don’t have to be super tame to pick it up! You can talk through the cage until you guys have bonded a bit more.
Step 1: Pick a phrase
For now, let’s stick to choosing one or two phrases, sounds or whistles for your parakeet to learn. Preferably something nice and simple: it is a beginner after all!
“Hi-hi”, “bye-bye”, “birdie!” or something else that’s short but sweet should be perfect.
Tip: Most parrots seem to find whistles easier than words. That’s why many a parrot owner has started out by teaching their bird to wolf whistle!
Step 2: Repetition
Repetition, repetition, repetition… I hope you like that phrase you picked because you’re going to be saying it a LOT!
If it will let you, take your parakeet out of its cage daily for some dedicated training time. Give it some snacks, maybe some playtime, and speak to it in a clear voice for 10-15 minutes. If you hear anything that sounds like your target phrase, shower the bird in praise and give it a treat.
Tip: It helps to find a quiet spot without distractions or outside noises for this. Parrots can have a pretty short attention span!
Other than the daily training sessions, just be chatting to your parakeet whenever you’re near it. Be sure to use your target phrase plenty, but it doesn’t just have to be that. You just want the bird to get very used to your voice, so tell it about your day as you go about feeding and cleaning.
Some parrot owners like to record their voice and leave the recording playing for their bird while they’re not at home. The usefulness of this is somewhat debated, as it seems that they do respond better to your actual presence, but it’s worth a shot!
And that’s it. There’s really not much more to it. You want your bird to associate you as well as your voice with fun and treats. If it’s comfortable with your presence and sees you as part of the flock, that’s what will hopefully trigger it to want to imitate your voice.
Tip: For some birds it can help to include some movement. Bob your parakeet gently up and down on your hand or even do a little dance yourself. Some parrots also like to serenade certain objects, like their favorite toy or even someone’s foot.
Parakeet talking examples
The parakeets below are great examples of what you can achieve with a bird that feels comfortable and a lot of patience and repetition.
As you can see, some will even start “speaking” to each other in human language!
So, the answer to our initial question ‘can parakeets talk?’ is a clear and resounding yes! It depends on the species and the time you’re willing to put in, but success can definitely be achieved.
If you have any more questions about parakeet talking or want to share your own experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. ?
Blue and white budgie photo © Sahara Frost on Adobe Stock.