Talking parrots have such a huge appeal. Even if you’re used to it, hearing a bird speak human phrases never gets old! Certain species are better at it than others. though. What parrots talk? Do all parrots talk? Although it’s not a good idea to buy a parrot just for its talking ability, it can be a factor in deciding which species to go for.
Keep reading for all the basics about talking parrots and how to encourage your bird to learn some phrases or tunes.
What parrots talk?
- African grey parrots (Psittacus sp.): Both species of African grey parrots have the potential to be incredibly talented talkers. Their pronunciation is clear and their vocabularies are amazing. Try some songs as well!
- Budgies (Melopsittacus undulatus): Although it can be challenging to actually get a budgie to speak, the males do have amazing potential. Their voices are a bit robotic-sounding but still easy enough to understand and some can learn a multitude of words and phrases. See the last paragraph for an example.
- Ringnecked parrots (Psittacula sp.): Ringnecked, moustached and plumheaded parrots from the genus Psittacula are appreciated for their talking abilities. Their voices are high pitched but clear and they just love chattering to you and other ringnecks.
- Amazon parrots (Amazona sp.): Among the best talkers of all, Amazon parrots are known for their exceptionally clear voices. Rather than just speaking in their own ‘parrot voice’ like many other species, they can often perfectly imitate pitch and tone.
There are many stories out there about neighbors confused about barking dogs, crying babies and ringing telephones that turned out to just be an Amazon parrot showing off its imitation skills!
- Quaker parrots (Myiopsitta monachus): Okay, they do sound somewhat like squeaky toys but we’d still place quaker parrots into the category of good talkers. They can learn a variety of phrases and like practicing them.
- Eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus): They’ve got clear voices and seem to enjoy imitating their owners.
- Moluccan cockatoos (Cacatua moluccensis): Moluccans (and some other cockatoos) can build really impressive vocabularies and pick up words and phrases easily.
The only problem is that if your cockatoo is a talker, you might end up being the only one who understands, as their pronunciation is generally not very clear at all. See the last paragraph for an example.
- Macaws (Ara sp.): Although their voices are pretty raspy, macaws can build an impressive vocabulary. It is said that blue-and-yellow macaws are the best talkers, although much of it does of course depend on the individual.
- Kakarikis (Cyanoramphus sp.): These small New Zealand parakeets are definitely not the first thing most people will think of when it comes to talking parrot species but here they are! For such a small species their talking ability is actually quite impressive.
- (Rainbow) lorikeets (Loriini): The colorful lorikeet, and especially the rainbow subspecies, is not a bad talker at all. Lorikeet voices are a bit reminiscent of those of Psittacula parrots and they are particularly good at imitating sounds.
Did you know? There are talking cockatoo populations in Australia that learned human speech from escaped members of their species.How can birds teach each other to talk?
Not great but can pick up some phrases
- Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus): Male cockatiels (and occasionally females) are pretty enthusiastic and you can easily teach them some tunes to whistle or a phrase or two. Their pronunciation is not great, though, and there seems to be a limit to how many different things they can pick up. Learn more in the guide to teaching a cockatiel to talk.
- Conures: As discussed in the guide on types of conures, green cheeks, blue crowns, red masks and sun conures are all fair talkers. Their problem is their raspy voice, which can be a bit hard to understand!
- Parrotlets (Forpus sp.): Parrotlets are not known for their talking abilities but some of them do actually pick it up and get pretty good at it. Their voices are a bit reminiscent of budgies, though a lot higher in pitch.
- Senegal parrots (Poicephalus senegalus): Some Senegal parrots like mimicking humans and pick up some simple words and phrases. Their voices are high-pitched and sound somewhat machine-like.
Only if you’re lucky and very patient
- Lovebirds (Agapornis sp.): If you try hard enough you might eventually start discerning some squeaky renditions of words in your lovebird’s chirps! Learn more in the guide to teaching a lovebird to talk.
- Caiques (Pionites sp.): Not really known for being talkers, some of them do unexpectedly start repeating things.
Do all parrots talk?
The answer to this question is a clear and resounding no. If you’re thinking about buying a parrot just for its talking ability you’re probably not approaching parrot ownership from the right angle.
Not only do not all parrots like to talk or ever learn to do so (even the ones from the ‘good talkers’ category), there is also much more to owning one than the fun aspect of teaching them to speak.
A few factors that influence talking ability are:
- Sex, for quite a few species, like budgies and cockatiels. The males naturally whistle and sing to females during courtship, which is why they have an increased interest in imitating noises. The females can learn some small stuff but mostly they stick to flock calls and general squawking.
- Age, with younger birds being more receptive to any kind of training including talking.
- Upbringing, with birds that were raised with plenty of human contact being much easier to train. To train a parrot it has to trust you, after all, so a tame one will be much more accepting of what you’re trying to teach it.
- Past experiences, which factors in with upbringing. Birds that have been mistreated in the past or left without human contact for extended periods of time are not always the best candidates for talking training. Many of them will be too shy and easily overwhelmed, though if yours isn’t, you can always try!
- You! Many aspects of parrot care require lots of patience and talking training is definitely not an exception to this.
Remember that no factor guarantees talking ability or lack thereof. ‘Luck’ is the primary influencer, really! Don’t let that stop you from trying, though. Worst case scenario your bird just gets some attention, which is always great for these social beings.
Teaching parrots to talk
So you’ve found a phrase that you’d like to teach your parrot to say, or maybe a tune for it to whistle? Time to start talking training.
Your target phrase(s) can be as simple as ‘Hi!’ or more complicated, but keep in mind not to do too many at once to avoid confusing your parrot.
- Keep in mind that repetition is the absolute key here. You should be repeating these phrases to the bird pretty much every time you see it! This helps it get used to your voice and grow comfortable with your presence.
- Bring some treats as well: you want your parrot to see you as a positive entity. And since you’ll be talking to it at the same time, it will also see your voice as something positive. That’s what we want!
- You can do dedicated training sessions for up to around 15 minutes a few times a day. This involves taking the bird out of the cage and ideally bringing it to a quiet place without distractions. Here, you just chat to it, give it some one-on-one attention and plenty of head scratches.
- Keep some treats handy for out-of-cage training too. If you’re dedicated to getting your parrot to talk, you’ll want to give it some positive reinforcement every time it successfully imitates your voice.
- Some parrots respond well to a bit of singing and dancing. Although you don’t want to get yours overly excited and have things devolve into a screaming fit, you could try bobbing it up and down on your arm, presenting it with an object to serenade or singing rather than speaking the target phrase. Make training a happy time: if you’re cheerful, your bird will be too.
- You can try recording the phrase in question or finding a YouTube video that repeats it, there are loads out there. This doesn’t work as well as talking to your parrot, but hey, they pick up telephone ringing too! This way your bird can hear you even when you’re out.
- Don’t lose your patience. Just practice daily, even if it’s only for a little while. Your parrot will likely love the extra attention and even if it never takes to talking, it makes for a great bonding experience.
Tip: Is your parrot just not getting that one song or word? It might just not really like it. Try switching to something else and see whether that works better for your bird.
Examples of talking parrots
The parrots below are some examples of what different species sound like.
Again, keep in mind that not all specimens will learn to speak as well as these do, but with lots of patience and repetition a lot is possible.
If you have any more questions about what parrots talk or just want to share your own experiences with talking parrots, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!