Parrots are excellent mimics. Given regular lessons, they can become fluent talkers. The most reliable parrots for speech are the African Grey Parrot and some Amazon Parrots.
There is considerable variation from parrot to parrot within any given species.
Parrots like the orange-winged or lilac-crowned amazons may not have the reputation for being great talkers, but many of them are. No matter what type of parrot you buy, you can expect at least one or two words.
The amount and quality of the parrot talking depend most upon the trainer. People that make the effort to teach the bird are usually rewarded for their work. It is best to have a single pet for speech training. Keep mirrors away from the birds. Give lessons at least once or twice a day. Try to use the bird’s natural desire to vocalize in the morning and afternoon by giving your lessons at those times.
Only one person should teach the bird to speak its first words. Have the bird sit on its stand or in its cage and teach it one word at a time. Begin with “Hello” followed by the bird’s name. A one- or two-syllable name is easiest for the bird to learn. Repeat the word “Hello” distinctly and slowly every few seconds. Have food rewards on hand to bribe the parrot as soon as it makes any sound in response to your “Hello.”
Don’t expect to have the bird duplicate your speech at first. In the first lesson, reward the parrot for any vocalization at the appropriate time. Work closer and closer to the word as the lessons progress. Once the bird vocalizes for you consistently, listen for two-syllable sounds and reward immediately. The parrot will soon attach the reward with its imitation.
Some birds attain the first work quickly, while others take eight weeks or more. Once the first word is repeated by the parrot consistently, you can begin to teach a second word. The second and third words should be simple. Limit the number of syllables that you expect the bird to duplicate. After “Hello,” a two-syllable sound, go to “How are you?” or “Hi sweetie,” which are both three-syllable sounds.
Build your parrot’s vocabulary as you would a child’s. At first, teach simple words and phrases; later go on to phrases with many syllables. Parrots can learn short musical phrases also. Whatever you decide to teach, stick with it until the bird says it. If you try to teach two different things at once, the bird will have a hard time learning either.
Tape-recorded Speech Training
Tape-recorded speech lessons work but are not recommended. The goal is for the parrot to talk to you, not a tape recorder. Most people put on the recording when they go to work or out for the evening. 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.
The parrot may learn to speak, but not with people present. The fact is, it may speak very well when no one is there but say nothing to people around. If you want to use tapes to supplement your life lessons, go ahead, but make certain to still give the lesson every day.
You can teach your bird to speak without standing in front of it, but the bird probably won’t talk on command. Command speech means that the bird will repeat after you whenever you want it to.
Even if you don’t have time for command speech training, you should talk to your parrot as you get ready for work in the morning, while you service its cage, or do household chores.
A parrot that talks are lots of fun, and a happier bird. Even if it doesn’t talk on command, you’ll be amazed at how well parrots can imitate the human voice. It is not necessary to darken the room or cover the cage for speech lessons.
Don’t try to teach the parrot to speak with television or music in the background. Work in a quiet room and pay all of your attention to the lesson. An old wives tale still persists that splitting the bird’s tongue will facilitate speech. This is a cruel idea and should never be done. Such treatment can kill the bird and does absolutely nothing to improve its speech.
Parrots speak well because of their excellent hearing and the physiology of their tongue, throat, and vocal cords. There are two types of speech training worth discussing here imitative speech refers to:
- The parrot repeats a phrase after it is said by the trainer; It is imitating the trainer’s words.
- Responsive speech refers to the parrot replying to the trainer’s phrase with an answer; it is responding to the trainer’s words.
For example, the parrot is imitating when the trainer says “Hi sweetie, ” and the bird answers “Hi sweetie.” The parrot is responding when the trainer asks “what’s your name?” and the bird replies “Sinbad.”
To teach responsive speech, first, teach the parrot the answer to your question or the reply to your statement. Work on the response until the parrot says it consistently. Then begin asking the question and reward the parrot for the appropriate response. It is important that the parrot take food rewards in order to teach it responsive speech. This process is more difficult and time-consuming than imitation, but well worth it. People think it is impossible to teach older birds to talk.
Truly, it is easier to teach a young bird, but some older parrots will learn to talk even though their speech may be limited to a few words. With young parrots, it is possible to teach an unlimited amount of words, phrases, and sounds.
Remember to work on one thing at a time and build your parrot’s repertoire slowly. Over eight or nine years, a parrot can develop an amazing vocabulary. As long as you keep up the lessons consistently, the parrot will learn new words. after a while, it becomes difficult to think of new things to teach the bird, but at this point, you will have a really accomplished parrot.
How to Teach Parrots To Talk
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.
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 realized 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 realize 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 favored 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” whenever he wants a grape!
Some parrots seem to pick up words and phrases without someone knowingly teaching them. 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 a company may not be welcomed in all households!
Parrot Speech Training Tips and Tricks
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 the day. Speak clearly, and loudly (but don’t shout) and really pronounce the words.