How to Teach Your Parrot to Talk?

This article is a small primer on how to teach your parrot to talk. I will cover how to teach, the steps to take, and some fun things you can get your parrot to learn.

Hearing your feathered friend talk like a human is surely one of the best things about owning a parrot.

After all, how many birds out there can mimic human speech? Depending on the bird species in question, it might even learn to sing.

However, teaching your parrot to speak might initially seem like a challenge. But like any skill, parrot training needs practice and patience. With time, you will see results with your bird.

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Parrots possess amazing vocalization capabilities, but how exactly do you train them to mimic human language?

Don’t worry, this article will tell you everything you need to know about teaching parrots to talk.

How to Teach Your Parrot to Talk

Why Do Parrots Talk? How Do They Do It?

Wild parrots use a variety of sounds to communicate among themselves and fit in with the flock.

A lone bird has significantly lower chances of survival. As a flock, they can share responsibilities and survive the odds together.

Now, you may domesticate a parrot, but their behavior in captivity will continue to be determined by their wild instincts. So basing your parrot’s training on its behavior in the wild will give you the best results.

When placed in a human household, parrots see their caregivers as their flock. They want to fit in and to do this, they start mimicking human sounds.

Parrots can make a variety of sounds by modifying the airflow passing through the syrinx, a vocal organ located at the spot where the trachea splits into the lungs.

Some species, such as the long-billed Corellas and the African Grey Parrots, are better than others at talking, but pretty much most parrots can be trained to talk to some degree or the other.

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Which Parrot Species Can Talk?

All parrots are not equally good talkers.

As per Dr. Rob Marshall, an avian vet, the Eclectus, Budgerigars, African Greys, Sulfur-crested Cockatoos, and Long-billed Corellas are the best talkers. 

This is not to say that other species do not talk. 

Lorikeets, Ringneck Parrots, Macaws, Major Mitchells, Amazons, Galahs, and 28 others also become very good talkers. 

Neofemas, Peach faced parrots, Cockatiels, and small Conures usually do not talk, but they make many other sounds and communicate in this way.

The following chart summarizes the talking abilities of various parrot species (note – it applies to the males in each species).

Budgies are among the best talkers in the world

However, there are differing opinions from many of our readers, which I also want to share with you below.

Sun Conures

Kimberley disagrees that Sun Conures are poor talkers.

“I have a female, and she will be four years old, and she talks up a storm and loves to talk back to you like a child.”

“She always has to have the last word.”

There are others on our website who also agree with Kimberley.

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    Indian Ringnecks

    Ric from Australia “strongly” disagrees that Indian Ringnecks are poor talkers. 

    He states that he has in his care a hand reared, five week old baby Ringneck who is already vocalizing.

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    He says “hello” quite clearly (as confirmed by a number of independent witnesses). 

    His sister’s adult ringneck is so convincing that when he talks, he is mistaken for a human. 

    He has been known to repeat entire conversations!

    Sulphur-crested Cockatoos:

    Katie from Texarkana, Texas, wrote: 

    “I have a 34 yr old male Fitzroy GSC cockatoo that is a fair talker. He doesn’t talk as well as the blue Amazon, but he does have a vocabulary. 

    He mimics more than anything: the dog, the car, my laugh, the phone. 

    We also had a Capuchin monkey years ago that loved the scream. 

    Sydney really loved that since he was a screamer anyway! The monkey has since passed, but Syd still pays tribute to him quite often. 

    It is just a little different from his regular cockatoo sound-off.”

    Other Pre-Conditions for Your Parrot to Talk

    Perfect Health

    Health is the most important thing for teaching your bird anything – unless it is perfectly healthy, all your efforts are bound to be wasted.

    Moreover, health is not just physical – you need to take care of its mental health as well.

    Make sure that your bird is happy in its environment, has lots of toys, gets lots of playtime, and so on.

    A healthy diet and good environment are very important for a parrot to learn to talk

    Love and Trust

    If your bird trusts you, it will learn to speak much faster.

    As I explained earlier, learning to talk is a way for the bird to get your attention. If it doesn’t like or trust you, then it won’t have any use of this talking ability.

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    Care, Patience, and Time

    Children and birds are very similar – they respond to love and care. Be patient and gentle, and treat your bird like a child. It will surely learn faster this way.

    Daily Routine

    Having a set routine is one of the best ways to make your bird feel happy and safe.

    Whatever routine you decide for your bird, make this training a part of it.

    Also, make sure that the lessons are short and sweet – if you keep at it for too long your bird will lose interest and might start avoiding them altogether.

    Starting Early

    Birds wean somewhere between 2 and 5 years of age. 

    It is easiest for them to learn at this time. In the wild, birds fledge and learn their way in the world, and this is the age when they do it.

    They understand that a language is necessary to communicate, and foraging for food is important to survive at this age. 

    They even learn to perfect flying during these years.

    Hence, their brains are most attuned and receptive during this period.

    This is therefore the best time to teach your bird. Of course, older birds can also be taught, but it is much harder and takes longer to do it.

    It is easier to teach younger birds to talk

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      How to Teach Your Parrot to Talk

      Moving on to the part you’re here for, let’s now check out how you can teach your parrot to talk.

      Here are a couple of things that you should know as a precursor:

      When mimicking human speech, parrots don’t know what they are saying (possibly with the rare exception of professionally trained parrots).

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      Hence, you can’t teach them your language; you can only train them to say certain words and phrases.

      Parrots are vocal learners. They simply grasp the sounds they hear and then imitate them.

      They can even imitate environmental sounds that they hear regularly.

      Show Your Love

      The first and foremost thing to teach a bird is to show your love for it. This is also an easy way to get it to pick up words.

      Start some time either in the morning or at dusk. These are the times when birds are the most talkative.

      To show your love, scratch your bird behind the neck. This is the same way baby birds’ parents preen them when they are young.

      As you do this, also say “I love you” softly but clearly to the bird. This helps it understand the context in which those words are being spoken.

      Follow it up by kissing your pet’s beak, and now add the word “kiss” to the conversation.

      Once these basics are established, you should start teaching your pet its name, by using the simple extension – “I love you, XYZ”.

      Teaching Cognitive Behaviors

      Once these love-related terms are clear to your bird, start teaching it the names for certain behaviors.

      For example, greeting it with “good morning” and “good evening” every day is a good start.

      Name the food that you offer your bird every day, whatever it may be. In time, your pet will pick up the names as well.

      Next, teach it commands like “come” and “hop up.”

      As you go on, start adding more and more words. For example, every time you scratch its wings, say the word “scratch.”

      Slowly, it will start lifting its wing to ask for scratches. 

      Quickly, the bird’s understanding will snowball, and it will start associating every word that you say with the action that you are doing.

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      Keep adding more words

      Once the groundwork is laid with the above experience, more and more words can be taught.

      Teach the bird one or two short words at a time, such as “Hello” and “bye-bye”.

      As your parrot masters a word, you may move on to a new one. 

      Gradually, you can club together multiple words to form phrases and sentences.

      Repetition is the key

      Whatever word you’re trying to teach your parrot, repeat it as often as you can. 

      They are more likely to mimic words and phrases spoken near them repeatedly.

      Also, make sure to emphasize the consonants; this will help your parrot grasp the pronunciations more quickly.

      Appreciate the parrot’s efforts

      Don’t forget to let it know that it’s doing a good job. Simple phrases like “good bird” or “good job” should do.

      Keep your tone happy and encouraging.

      Even though your parrot doesn’t know what “good job” means, it will associate the words with your tone.

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        Use treats

        Sunflower seeds and other treats are great for positive reinforcement when training a bird to speak (or to do anything, for that matter).

        Repeat a word each time you give the bird a treat. This way, it will associate the word with the positive experience of receiving treats.

        You may even train your parrot to say specific words for specific treats. Here’s how:

        1. Let’s take the word “banana” for example. Repeat the word a few times before giving your parrot a piece of banana. You may do the same with other treats too, such as saying “apple” before giving the bird a piece of apple.
        2. Eventually, start holding back from giving the treat until the bird looks at you. Reinforce the word more and more, giving your parrot time to respond before it gets the treat.
        3. Once your bird starts responding, take the training a notch higher. Hold out the treat and say the word, but don’t give it to the parrot until it looks at you and repeats the word.
        4. The bird won’t get the pronunciation right immediately, but even an approximation is fine at the initial stages. You may encourage it to pronounce the word more distinctly by repeating the word but not giving the treat until the bird gets closer to the correct pronunciation.
        5. Try getting your feathered friend to say the word by simply holding out the treat, without saying it yourself.

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        Teaching a parrot to say common phrases

        To get a parrot to speak a phrase, first teach it all the words in the phrase.

        Then, string those words together and speak the whole phrase, repeating it the same way you did when teaching individual words.

        To make things easier, you may pronounce several simple words together as one quick word, such as “Howareyou?” instead of “How are you?”

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          Jealousy Learning

          Most often, a pet bird will bond with one specific member of the household and become very jealous if that member does not pay attention to it.

          This can be a very useful tool in helping your parrot along the learning path.

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          Easy Words To Teach Your Parrot

          Not sure which words you should teach your parrot to say? Here are some ideas.

          Greetings (Hey, Hello, Hola, Ahoy)

          Teaching your parrot to greet you is a good start.

          These words are simple and easy for them to pronounce. You may even train the bird to use the word specifically to greet you when you walk in.

          Goodbyes (Goodbye, bye-bye, good night)

          Of course, goodbyes go hand-in-hand with greetings. You may even train your parrot to understand that when you say “goodnight,” it’s time to go to sleep.

          “Thirsty”

          Each time you feel the water bowl, repeat the word “thirsty” or “water.”

          The parrot will get a contextual awareness of the meaning and can potentially use the word to let you know when the bowl needs to be refilled.

          “Hungry”

          Similarly, getting the bird to associate the word “hungry” with the refilling of its food bowl might teach it to ask for food when it feels hungry.

          “Love you”

          What could possibly feel better than your pet bird showing you some affection?

          Teach your bird this phrase while cuddling with it or talking to it affectionately.

          Manner-related words (Please and Thank You)

          Teaching your bird to say “please” when asking for a treat and “thank you” after getting one is a great way to amaze your guests.

          How Much Time Will My Parrot Take to Learn?

          This varies from one parrot to another, though most of them need about a year or longer before they can start speaking clear and coherent phrases.

          The time taken to pick up words may vary from weeks to months.

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          The parrot’s learning pace depends on factors such as its species, gender, environment, and willingness to learn.

          Some of the smarter species of birds, like the African Grey, can learn words particularly fast.

          Funny Things to Teach Your Parrot to Say

          Funny phrases coming from a parrot never fail to lighten one’s mood.

          “Help! They turned me into a parrot!” is a classic that never gets old. Here are some other good ones:

          • Don’t bite me!
          • Bless You! (right after someone sneezes)
          • What are Ya Doing? (in a suspicious tone)
          • Rise and shine!

          If your parrot is just learning to talk and all these are too complex, just a dramatic and long-drawn “Noooo!” can be pretty funny too.

          “Don’t bite me” is an old favorite among bird owners

          Can I combine teaching my parrot to talk with training it other things?

          Yes, you can absolutely combine teaching your parrot to talk with overall parrot training.

          In fact, for that express purpose, we have a full parrot training course that you can use to not only train your bird to talk but also to help manage other behavioral issues that you might be struggling with.

          Wrapping up

          As long as you get the right species of parrot, teaching it to talk shouldn’t be too hard. However, you must be patient and keep the training sessions stress-free.

          Even more importantly, continue to give your pet bird care and affection regardless of how slowly it might be learning or even if it can’t learn to talk at all.

          Thank you for reading, and I hope this article answered all your queries about teaching a bird to talk.

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          Frequently Asked Questions

          How long does it take for a parrot to talk?

          It usually takes about a year or even longer for a parrot to learn to talk. The best thing to do is to start as early as possible. If you are dealing with chicks, start as early as the third or fourth month.
          It actually depends on many factors, such as species, environment, gender, and so on.
          Some smarter species, such as the African Grey, can learn words quickly. It may take them anywhere from a few weeks to months.

          How do you get a parrot to talk to you?

          To teach a parrot to talk, start with simple words and repeat them often, emphasizing consonants.
          Use positive reinforcement like treats and praise, and gradually move on to phrases and sentences.
          Teach all the words in a phrase before putting them together. Parrots mimic sounds they hear, so they repeat words and phrases regularly.
          Remember that parrots don’t understand the meaning of words, so focus on training them to imitate certain sounds.

          What is the easiest parrot to teach to talk?

          African Grays are highly intelligent birds that can learn over 500 words in their lifetime and use them in context.
          Congo and Timneh are the two types of African Greys considered the best talkers, with Congos being larger and higher priced but Timnehs starting to talk quicker.
          These birds require special care, attention, and mental stimulation and can be temperamental. It takes a lot of time and effort to teach them to speak.
          African grays have a lifespan of 23 years and can cost $1,500 or more. Their vocabulary ranges from 100 to 500 words.

          What is the smartest parrot?

          African Gray Parrots are known for their ability to mimic human speech, but they also possess other forms of intelligence that can rival that of young children.
          A study found that they are capable of intelligent reasoning comparable to that of a five-year-old child and can use deduction and elimination skills to locate hidden food.
          They are exceptional talkers as well.

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          Beautyofbirds.com's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

          1 thought on “How to Teach Your Parrot to Talk?”

          1. I see young parrots are more receptive to learning new things, including talking compared to older parrots cause it may take more time and effort. So I started teaching my parrot talk when it was 3-4 months. I began with simple words and phrases, such as “hello” or “goodbye”, and I will reward my parrot with treats after learning to encourage them. Sometimes I use audio recordings of words and phrases to help teach parrot to talk. Play the recordings frequently and I see they learned some words in it.

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