Parrot Talk

African Grey Parrot

One of the joys of owning a parrot can be the bird’s ability to talk. It’s such fun to seemingly carry on a conversation with your bird.

It’s interesting to speculate how parrots can talk since they don’t have vocal cords or lips.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg did some research on the subject at Brandeis and Harvard Universitites. She discovered that African Grey Parrots probably use their esophagus, trachea and glotis, creating pressure that mimics the burst from our lips. Parrots also use tongue placement and amount beaks are open to produce different sounds. Research is ongoing as to how parrots communicate in the wild and in our homes. It would be interesting to know how much they really understand and associate the words they mimic with actions and objects.

You can encourage your parrot to talk with some training tips.

You can start by rewarding your parrot with a treat when he repeats an action you want. Then by repeating a word or simple phrase at first, your parrot will learn that he is rewarded for doing what you ask. When choosing your parrot’s word, be sure it’s something that won’t embarrass you in front of others. Repeat the word often. You can record your voice and play it for your bird when you are not available. The more often your parrot hears the word, the more likely he will learn to repeat it.

As soon as your bird repeats the word, praise him and give him that treat. When he associates a treat with behavior, your parrot will be encouraged to continue to learn. What living being, we humans included, won’t perform when rewarded.

You can also teach your bird to associate the word with an object by saying the word and showing him the object. Having you repeat the word up close to your bird so you have his full attention and he listens and watches your lips is helpful too.

If your bird happens to pick up a word or phrase that doesn’t please you, try ignoring it. Without the usual reward, either with a treat or a pet, your bird may not say it again.

There are some parrots that, no matter how hard you try, just will not talk. Some will mimic sounds only. Whatever the case may be, just enjoy your parrot for his unique personality. Whether your parrot talks or not, they are wonderful pets that bring a lot of fun into your life.

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