One of the reasons
humans love parrots is their ability to talk. We love their
vocalizations (well, maybe not the screaming they are sometimes
prone to), and we enjoy the feeling of communicating with these
intelligent, beautiful creatures.
However, you should never buy a bird only because you expect a
talking genius. Frankly, you should assume the bird will NOT learn
to talk, because a bird should not be traded in or abandoned just
because it doesn’t learn human speech.
Most parrots learn to talk when they are either:
1. Kept alone with humans
2. Kept with other parrots who talk
3. Are members of a species with a facility for talking.
The best talkers are those tiny budgies – parakeets still hold the
record for vocabulary. I have never met a male budgie kept singly
that has not learned words. However, budgies kept in pairs and
female budgies generally do not learn to talk (there are always
Parrots are vocal by nature. Talking is just another way of
communicating with you. If they can communicate fine without words,
why bother? For this reason, teaching talking is really about
associating pleasant and positive events with words. Arbitrarily
trying to teach your bird words you think are cool is not very easy
– and in most cases doesn’t work.
African Greys are considered one of the best talkers – mainly
because they have the uncanny ability to speak in voices that sound
very human. Most other parrots have “parroty voices” that are
clearly NOT human. People have been tricked by an African grey on
many an occasion by the accuracy of their mimicry.
So talking is about communicating. How would you teach a parrot to
talk then? Think about how a child learns to talk – they hear you
say things IN RELATION TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
When you come in the room you say, “Hello.”
When you give them food you say, “Yummy cereal!”
When you change their diaper you say, “Oh oh! Messy poops!” (grin).
The child learns words because she sees that they relate TO
SOMETHING HAPPENING in the world.
They also relate to emotions – if you hug your child and say “I Love
You,” the child understands these words confer the meaning that is
associated with a hug.
The best way to teach your bird to talk is to use the SAME WORDS
with the SAME ACTIVITIES – association – pure and simple.
Why do you think birds tend to learn their names first? Because that
word is associated with the pleasant fact that their human companion
has come home or come over to pay attention to them.
Anytime you bring food, clean the cage, walk in the room, turn on
the TV, walk out the door…associate a phrase with the activity. This
is the best way to get your parrot communicating with you with human