How to teach a parrot to talk

Parrot speech training 2

Listening to a parrot chatting along is really delightful, so it’s no wonder that so many bird owners seek a bird that can talk. 

But how easy is it to teach your parrot to speak and sing?  It all depends on your parrot’s personality, his living situation, species and the amount of time and enthusiasm given by the owner to lessons.

Some species are more renowned than others for being good talkers, but its not unheard of for an African grey (one of the most reliable talking birds) to say little or nothing at all, so please don’t purchase a bird just because you think it will have a lot to say!

There are several different methods used by pet bird owners to teach their feathered friend desired words, phrases and songs.  One of these is repetition.  It often happens that if your bird hears you saying something to him often enough, he will begin to repeat the word.  Perhaps this is just mimicry or perhaps the bird assumes this is an important form of communication between you.  I believe it to be the second one!

Another method is word association.  I use this quite often with my grey, not just for speech training but for other forms of training.  He also makes his own associations without my help. 

For example, when I was potty training him, I used the command “go toilet” when I wanted him to drop.  He started repeating this phrase, often just before he was going to drop a poo no matter where he was.  He then follows this action with “good toilet!” 

This is the sneaky bit.  He learned that when he went potty in the right place and said “good toilet”, as a reward for being so good, I would pick him up for a quick cuddle and set him back down again.  So when I had my back turned he would say “good toilet Tikki!” and I would pick him up to cuddle him. 

However, I soon realised that most of the time he wasn’t going potty at all!  He was just asking for a cuddle!  Word association can also be used to teach labels.  For example, you can teach your parrot to realise that a grape is called “grape” and a nut is called “nut” etc.  This generally works best with treats that they like. 

When you offer your bird a grape or some other favoured treat, before you hand it over, repeat the name of the object several times so that the bird begins to make the association between the word they are hearing and the object they receive.  Do this every time and your parrot may begin to say “grape” every time he wants a grape!

Loop tapes are another popular method used for teaching birds words, phrases and songs.  They are widely available from pet stores and catalogues and offer a whole range of categories to choose from.  You could also make your own.  When you’re out or the bird is on its own, just let the tape play over and over.  Although this often proves a successful training method, some birds seem to just tune it out, so if you do make a tape, try and make it varied, enthusiastic-sounding and fun.

Some parrots seem to pick up words and phrases without someone knowingly teaching them.  My Congo grey really seems to pay attention when the house is busy and there is a lot of excitement going on around him.  It is then that he tends to pick up things that no-one admits to having taught him to say.  He just picks out words and phrases that he likes and adds them to his vocabulary. 

Placing your parrot’s cage or t-perch in a busy part of the house such as the living room could greatly increase the talking potential of your bird.  However, you really need to watch what you say in front of a particularly avid speaking parrot, as they may pick up things that you would rather they didn’t.  A spontaneous swear word in front of company may not be welcomed in all households!

Parrot speech training - Hints n Tips:

Insert plenty of enthusiasm and excitement into your voice when speech training your bird.

Reward your bird for providing the desired response (but be careful what reward you choose as your parrot may come to expect it every time)

Try to schedule lessons when the bird is at its most talkative times of day.

Speak clearly, loudly (but don't shout) and really pronounce the words.

See also Parrot talking (Speech training 1)


 How to teach a parrot to talk