Does It Talk?

“Does it talk?” I hear this so frequently that I have sworn I would explode if I heard it one more time! Every adoption event we attend is littered with “does it talk”. My first instinct is to reply, yes but can you fly? Unfortunately I must educate rather than respond with how I really feel. Yes, many of our parrots talk but that does not mean that when you take them home they will continue to talk. Parrots choose when, where and in front of whom they want to talk. Yes, some can be trained to talk on command. There are birds who never say a word while in our care and when they go to their new home, their parronts discover they have rather large vocabularies.

If you are only interested in a talking parrot, might I suggest you go to Toys R Us, they have a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw that will say anything you tell it to.


Parrots are complex, thinking, feeling and social beings who require much care, time and attention in order to thrive in our homes. They were born to fly hundreds of miles a day in search of food but instead they are in cages in our home. Some way we must compensate, as best we can, for all the ways we failed them by bringing them into our homes. But, I digress, many species of parrots can and do learn human language. There is still much debate as to whether it is mimicry or true use of language. I can tell you, I have witnessed birds using language appropriately. There are some species who seem to talk more than others. Amazons and African Grey’s have a great propensity for speech, however, many also only make sounds they have heard in their environment, such as the beep of a microwave or ring of a phone, and never say a word. There is a Parakeet named Disco, who has his own You Tube videos and has been on many TV shows because of his speech. He speaks in sentences and his voice is extremely clear. Most Parakeets do not learn to talk so Disco is a good example that speech is limited to certain species. Google Disco and enjoy his videos, he really is pretty amazing.


Alex, an African Grey who lived with Dr. Irene Pepperberg for 30 yrs is one famous parrot because of his speech. Alex also knew his basic colors,could count and knew basic shapes. Dr. Pepperberg has written a book about Alex, his life and his accomplishments, you can also Google him for more information. Another well known parrot is Einstein, also an African Grey, who has a very large vocabulary.


Many people ask, how do I get my parrot to talk? You may be able and maybe not, it depends upon the parrot’s individual personality, the amount of time you spend talking with your parrot and other influences. Many only learn phrases that are said with great drama, such as “ouch” after the bird bites you or words/phrases that you say often such as “hello”.


Accept your bird with or without speech and never purchase or adopt a bird just because it talks. You could end up very disappointed if that is your intention. What happens to the bird when you become disappointed? Will you still want the Grey that only whistles and beeps? Or the Amazon that you find has a potty mouth after you get it home? Or the Macaw who ends up with a 5 word vocabulary? Will you still love them?


Do some research, join some bird groups and ask people their experience with birds that talk or end up never saying a word.

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