Parrot Care - Teaching your Bird to Talk

Say you’re the proud owner of a parrot, purchased it as a baby and finished feeding it by hand for some time. You may not grasp at first that your parrot can talk, as many authors mention only few species that can. But this is old gossip!

How can you teach your pet to talk? There are many ways to do it, starting with playing training tapes or CDs. This is preety much the same as you yourself talking to the parrot or at the parrot, but it’s not the same thing, as it can become rather confusing for your pet. Some say that playing a training tape to parrots that have already begun talking might actually shut them down! So, don’t leave them alone with the tape…they might learn a few phrases, but the better way , for both you and your parrot, is for you to interact with them.

Not all parrots are natural talkers, but training them might be a real revelation to you.

Let’s get it started! Keep in mind the fact that a parrot associates actions with words or actions. So try saying something to the bird every time you feed it something. Say “MMMMM. I like it!" or “This is good!” and make kissing sounds and nuzzle your parrot. This is better than simply saying “Hello!” when you want to interact with your bird, as this plain word may not have any meaning to it just now. Be creative, don’t work by the handbook! It’s more fun this way, I’m telling you!

My parrots loved to play, and after I repeated to them these three sentences: "You want to come out? I want to come out. I want to play!", they even put them in the correct order. At first one of my parrots had some trouble learning the word “to” and it repeated the sentence "I want to play." over and over again so I would correct it until it got it right. I also teached my parrots that ."Now!" Now!" Now!" means cage cleaning time. Ins’t it nice to know that your pets can understand what you are saying? I can tell you that I love it!

Some old books say that you must never whistle to your parrots, as they might find it more easier than talking, but this is not at all true. My parrots can both whistle and talk, and sometimes combine these two together. One of my parrots actually does this: it whistles themes from "The Man With No Name," and "Close Encounters of The Third Kind." I have to now dial the phone away from my parrots, as they whistle the beeps of the phone when I dial the number. Nevertheless, I don’t mind it. The other parrot I own had learned 32 phrases in the course of one year and a half, and had learned two more sentences just before it suddenly died.

As an example, African Greys start talking late in their life. It takes about a year before saying anything, but they can quickly catch up. They use to mumble before speaking the first clear word. African Greysare natural wolf whistlers. But if you train them well, they will be able to talk very much and very well. You must also know that parrots may sometimes like some words better than others. Imagine that I have seen a parrot which lived most of its life in a florist's shop and could say "Hello, or "Hi," in a variety of voices. It also produced a smoker's cough, but only for men. Other parrots love to repeat their own names over and over again, asking What are you doing?" and they also practice different kinds of laughs!

Should you be a poor whistler, your parrot will be a poor whistler too. You must speak clearly to them, as many words may seem blurred to them. So, if you talk clearly to the parrots, so will they. When your birds finds it difficult to pronounce some of the consonants, emphasize these letters, or substitute a harder sound to make a softer one appear clearer. For example they could say "you're cud," if you don’t make a clear "t" sound. The "D" sound in "you're a good bird" may sound like "Brr" to your pet. So emphasize the correct sounds by making up a word like "pert" or "bert" if your parrot cannot say this sentence correctly.

When you want to start teaching your parrot talking, be patient, calm, and even enthusiastic about it. Just by looking at your bird, you’ll know when the right moment has come. It will stare intently at you and its pupils will change once you speak or whistle. You should not start with a bored “Hello!”, as your parrot mat not react to it at all! You should be excited as you say it! Don’t be surprised if your parrot will not even want to learn “Hello!”, but rather say for example, "come here," instead. Some parrot can’t say "I want to come out!" but he surely understand its meaning! Writing a list of words, sentences or sounds that you want your parrot to learn would be quite a good idea.

Consider the fact that some species of parrots live for up to 70 years with proper care and diet, so be very careful with what you teach your bird…you may hear it for the next 70 years! It might not be so exciting to hear for seventy years a song that might be out of style by then. So if you don't like opera, don't teach it to your birds.

Fortunately, nowadays a great variety of books and magazines are a big deal of help to a new bird owner. Now there are many local bird clubs which parrot lovers can join and exchange opinions on how to help birds have longer and better quality lives. A happy and healthy bird makes its owner happy too. And if a problem of any kind comes up, the club members can recommend you what is to be done, even a behaviorist! The aim is to keep a good relationship between a parrot and its owner. Let’s make a brighter future for us and our birds! And as a science fiction book once stated: “If we can't communicate with our own planet's intelligent species, how can we hope to speak to any others?”