Parrots have a unique and complex vocal system that allows them to mimic human speech the most accurately out of any other animal on the planet. It certainly is entertaining to hear your parrot say things like hello, bye-bye, and whatchya lookin’ at? But how do you go about teaching them these nifty little phrases? Here are five tips on teaching your pet to talk:
1) Breed Specific
First and foremost, know that all birds aren’t great learners. There are some breeds that have the tendency to pick up words faster than you’d like and some that may be downright stubborn. Never buy a bird just to teach it to talk.
One of the best breeds out there for talking is the African Grey parrot. You may have heard of Alex, the bird that could not only repeat words, but use them in context. He could identify 50 objects, seven colors, five shapes, count objects presented in front of him up to six, and even understood the concept of zero! You may also be surprised to learn that the bird in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most words ever spoken was a parakeet: a whopping 1,728 words!
I have a Solomon Island eclectus, and although some may be able to learn quite the vocabulary, my bird only knows a few words (but happens to say a lot more when she doesn’t think I’m in the room!).
2) Start Simple
Don’t teach your bird to try to say multi-word phrases or words with too many syllables at first. Start out with something simple like “hello.” Once your bird gets the hang of it, you’d be surprised how quickly they take off with the next set of words or phrases.
My bird only says words that I say so enthusiastically it almost hurts. She especially likes saying very loudly “BooBoo! Come here!” — mimicking me after what I’m always saying to my hard-of-hearing dog.
If your bird is finger-trained, take him out of the cage on your hand, turn off the television, sit him right up against your face and say the word slowly using plenty of exaggerated mouth movements. You want to catch your bird’s attention and intrigue them with your speech as much as possible. Do this every day or as much as possible in addition to using the word frequently in other every day interactions such as changing their water or giving them fresh food.
You can buy CDs specifically for teaching your bird to talk or you can simply record your own voice. Leave it on repeat while you’re out and about. Know that these CDs shouldn’t be used alone to teach your bird to talk and can never substitute one-on-one interaction.
Follow these five tips and your parrot may be talking in no time at all. Remember some birds take longer to learn than others, but with persistence almost every bird has the capability to learn at least one word!