On Talking Terms Again

Photo Credit: K Schneider via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: K Schneider via Compfight cc

Recently, I wrote a post about working with birds to help them speak our human language.  Most often, when we think of talking birds, parrots come to mind.  However, did you know there are several species outside of the parrot world which can mimic both a variety of sounds and speech beautifully?  A list of them (per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_bird) includes mynah birds, corvids, starlings, mockingbirds, lyrebirds, and the Australian magpie!  Here are a few videos depicting a mynah and starling  being exceptionally articulate and of a lyrebird imitating some amazing noises (including the noise of a camera shudder).

Stuffing Birds with Words

wpid-20150317_090951.jpgMimicry.  It’s one of the most charming things that parrots can do, to the delight of parrot owners everywhere.  There is something magical for us humans about actually being able to communicate with another species, in our language!  Of course, there is still some controversy surrounding whether it’s actual communication or simply haphazard regurgitation, on the part of the parrot, but in either case it’s delightful to hear a bird spouting off phrases we can understand.

So how does the process work to get birds to be vocal?  Some of it can be attributed to the natural tendency of parrots to mimic sounds.  However, there are some definite things that parrot owners can do to help the process along or encourage a more extensive and/or selective vocabulary.  Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • Be selective when you purchase a bird. In some species, males tend to talk more often (as can be the case with budgies and cockatiels).  Also, if you get a younger, hand raised bird, you can work on training and bonding earlier.  Certain species of parrots are also know to be more apt to talk.  According to this article on http://www.birdchannel.com, the best talkers are the African grey, the quaker parrot, and the budgerigar.  Fun fact: although tiny in size, budgies are some of the most prolific talkers in the parrot world.  According to the aforementioned article, a budgie named Puck has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records for knowing more than 1,700 words!
  • Spend time building a relationship with your bird.  The more time you spend with your parrot bonding positively, the more likely it is that your feathered friend will want to talk to you.
  • Speak clearly to your bird and pay attention to what your bird really keys into.  If you are saying something to your bird and he cocks his head or appears to listen more intently to what you’re saying, chances are he will want to repeat the word(s) you are currently using.
  • Make a big deal out of words/phrases.  If you put emphasis on what you are saying, oftentimes the bird will find it more interesting.
  • Reward your bird for being vocal.  If you are training with treats, you can carry that training over into talking.  Either reward your bird for giving you phrases you want on cue or just reward him for being a talkative bird.
  • Keep it fresh.  Once your bird has a phrase or few phrases down, introduce something new and continue to do that throughout your training.  It will be more exciting for your bird to hear new things, and it will keep training fresh for you as well!

Teaching a parrot to talk can be so much fun for both bird and owner.  I will leave you with a video of my cockatiel, Sydney, when he first began talking.  In this video, I actually had him talking into a mirror, which is another trick you can use to get your bird to become chatty!  Hopefully he will entice you to also stuff your bird with words!