Is it Possible for Parrots to Communicate?

Shout! Polly desires a cracker! Beautiful bird! Beautiful bird! These are just a few of the things you might hear coming out of a parrot’s mouth.

Do you have pets? Or just love animals? If so, you may have wished from time to time that you could have genuine conversations with them. Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to your dog about your day?

What if you have a pet parrot? Can your wish come true? Parrots and certain other birds seem to be capable of communication. But can they engage in a real conversation?

Possibly! Experts say parrots probably do not comprehend the meanings of most words. However, they are aware of the context surrounding words and can make connections with them. For instance, a researcher named Tim Wright explained why a parrot might ask “How are you?” when you enter the room. It’s likely not inquiring about your well-being. Instead, the parrot mimics the words it has heard you say many times upon walking into a room. Your parrot has made a connection between you entering the room and that phrase.

Repeating sounds you’ve heard many times before is known as mimicry. The “talking” we hear from parrots is mimicry of all sorts of sounds. They imitate many things, from spoken words to creaking doors to barking dogs.

Most parrots are simply imitating their owners. They don’t really know what they’re saying. But some professionally-trained parrots have learned to comprehend what they’re saying. One such bird was an African Grey Parrot called Alex. Alex was trained to understand and use language. By the end of his life, Alex could identify 50 objects, seven colors, and six shapes. He could even count up to eight!

Did you know that parrots don’t have vocal cords like humans? It’s true! Parrots don’t push air over vocal cords to produce sound. Instead, they use the muscles in their throat to direct air over the trachea (windpipe). They produce different sounds by altering the depth and shape of the trachea.

Parrots aren’t the only birds that can learn to imitate sounds. Some other birds that can “talk” include crows, ravens, Indian Ringneck Parakeets, Budgies, and Cockatiels.

If you’re WONDERing why some birds imitate sounds they hear, it’s because they’re social creatures. They feel a need to interact and fit in with those around them. When kept as pets, these birds see their human owners as their family and want to communicate with them.

Since a human owner usually can’t learn a bird’s “language,” the bird learns the language of its owner. These birds are often quite intelligent. Mimicry becomes a way for them to get attention and interact with their owners.

Do you want to have a bird that talks? The best thing to do is to find a bird that already knows how to imitate sounds. You’ll still need to spend lots of time training it. Give it plenty of positive interactions to encourage more “talking.”

Try It Out

Ready to keep exploring? Find a friend or family member to assist you with these activities.

  • Imagine if you find yourself lost in the depths of the jungle while searching for your own pet parrot. Unfortunately, you must now adapt to living among the animals. How will you cope? How will you communicate? Your ability to speak won’t be of much use. Instead, you’ll have to discover new and unique ways to communicate with the wild animals. Have fun brainstorming ideas on how to communicate with them without using language!
  • Have you ever dreamed of teaching your pet to talk? Draw inspiration from these 10 animals who can talk! Which of these animals would you love to meet the most? Explain your choice to a friend or family member.
  • Do you wish you could communicate with more people? One way to achieve that is by learning another language. Take a look at Duolingo. Are there any other languages you’re interested in learning? Learning a new language can be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Choose one and get started!

References

  • https://www.audubon.org/news/why-do-parrots-talk (accessed 15 Aug. 2019)
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/11695970/Revealed-The-secret-to-how-parrots-talk.html (accessed 15 Aug. 2019)
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrot#Sound_imitation_and_speech (accessed 15 Aug. 2019)

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