Critter Culture
Train Your Parrot to Talk With These Tactics
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Train Your Parrot to Talk With These Tactics

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jul 6, 2022

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Talking birds include but are not limited to mynahs, crows, ravens, and parakeets, a type of parrot. But parrots are heads and shoulders above their feathered relatives—they mimic sounds like absolute pros and can shift from English to French in a very Timothée Chalamet-like manner. They can even speak Dog. And in the wild, parrots in bilingual jungles can code-switch to fit in; peer pressure and the quest for survival get them talking. In 1994, a parakeet named Puck set a Guinness World Record with its extensive vocabulary of 1,728 words. You and your parrot can also reach such lofty linguistic heights with the correct training methods.

1

Animals are smart

a red and green parrot looking at each other and talking LisaStrachan / Getty Images

To call someone a birdbrain or say they're learning something in parrot-fashion is to do parrots a disservice. These birds are intelligent, and their speech is often conceptual. Trained parrots can request their favorite foods and identify various colors, quantities, and objects. Other animals communicate similarly—they just don't speak human.

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2

Select the right breed

African grey parrot Michelle Mahlke-Sloniecki / Getty Images

More than two-thirds of the parrots you'll find at your neighborhood pet store aren't good talkers. The African Grey is one of them—this breed can imitate your phone ringtone, a police siren, your Aunt Jemma, and your cat. The Yellow-naped Amazon is a good choice, too. Don't dismiss macaws and cockatoos. They can talk the talk, but not quite as well.

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3

Start 'em young

Woman Playing With Her Parrot At Home Javier Zayas Photography / Getty Images

You want to start training with a baby bird, and preferably one that's been in captivity since the day it hatched. Talk to your little feathered buddy gently, and it will begin to trust you and see you as a member of its flock. Use some basic three to five-word phrases to start with and repeat them often. Do like your drama teacher advised and practice the two E's— emote and enunciate. This is your version of birdsong, so express yourself in sing-song ways.

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4

Train at the right times

Close-Up Of Woman With Gold And Blue Macaw Petra Wormstall / EyeEm / Getty Images

Pick quieter moments during the day when your parrot is in a familiar place and calm. Food is a good incentive, so try teaching before mealtimes and use positive reinforcement like seeds, nuts, and apple slices on other occasions. Don't let sessions go over 15 minutes, and read the room. You'll be going nowhere slowly if the bird isn't interested

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5

Get a clicker

girl stroking creamy white cockatoo Pilin_Petunyia / Getty Images

Clicker training works well with cats and dogs, and it can work for parrots as well. You'll need a clicker gadget which you can get from the pet shop. The clicking sound is a cue—it comes before a reward for good behavior in the form of the desired action.

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6

Exposure and connection

A couple at home with their pet parrot Sophie Mayanne / Getty Images

Connect what you're saying to a particular action or time of day. For example, you can say 'hello honey' in the morning when you whip your parrot's cage cover off. And expose your parrot to a bustling environment if possible. Conversation and stimulation are the keys to unlocking the Chatty Cathy within your avian family member.

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7

Use word association

Cropped Image Of Person Feeding Orange Parrot Manuela Schewe-Behnisch / EyeEm / Getty Images

Birds are curious creatures, and they love food. You can use this to your advantage. Say the name of a beloved fruit, for example, papaya, with a question mark at the end. Over time, it will say 'papaya?' when it wants some. Words become associated with rewards, and this promotes speech and socializing.

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8

Record your voice

Cockatoo parrot looks into the phone

Human interaction is best, but try recording yourself saying more complicated phrases and play the recording while you're off doing something else. The birds don't get bored, and the odds that they'll echo what they're hearing goes up. Whether it's the first few lines of a well-known prayer or your favorite Taylor Swift song lyrics, you're on a path to shock and awe your visitors.

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9

Don't be left red-faced

woman talking to parrot Pilin_Petunyia / Getty Images

Parrots can repeat almost anything and pick up what you say most often and energetically. Those curse words you'd prefer not to be relayed to your grandmother—just don't say them near your bird. And for the love of Polly, don't do it in front of the parrot unless you want said parrot to star in the Zack and Miri Make a Porno sequel.

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10

Don't push it

Yellow Naped Parrot Ian Fox / Getty Images

Animals, like humans, are individuals with differing personalities. Some birds are reserved, even if they're supposed to be from talkative breeds. Parrots are sensitive and observant animals and will pick up on your negative emotions, so avoid yelling or getting visibly frustrated if you're making little progress. They are not toys, so don't get one if a party trick is one of your main motivations.

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