What Makes Parrots Talk Like Humans?

Parrots can be taught to mimic human speech.
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It can be simply astonishing to watch your parrot pick up complex language. Not all parrots talk, and those who do learn words and phrases only mimic human speech. While parrots do not have vocal cords like their owners, they do have the anatomy required to “talk.”

Learning Language

Parrots are one of a select group of six animals that must develop a verbal language to interact with each other, according to Steve Hartman of The Parrot University. Your bird will be more likely to talk if you begin teaching him words when he is still young. Being a vocal person or having a vocal family will also boost your odds of having a talkative feathered buddy. Parrots may have trouble catching onto your language at first, often mixing human vocalizations with parrot vocabulary.

Why Parrots Talk

Parrots are highly sociable and crave interaction from their human flock. Not all pet birds have the ability or desire to speak, but African grey parrots, double yellow-headed parrots, Timneh African grey parrots, Eclectus arrots and yellow-naped Amazon parrots are just a few of the avian species that feel inclined to use human speech. Talking also reinforces the bond between you and your bird. To develop strong group bonds, parrots feel the need to sound similar to their flock – aka, you.

Parrot Physiology

Without a flexible mouth and vocal cords, learning how to speak human language can be challenging for our feathered friends. Parrots have a structure called a syrinx that is similar to the larynx at the top of the trachea in humans. The syrinx, located in the chest at the bottom of the trachea, can be used to speak human words. As the parrot attempts to use speech, the sound passes through the throat and mouth and is manipulated by the tongue.

Teaching Birds to Talk

Repetition is an important factor when teaching parrots how to talk. Begin with simple words that can be used in daily communication with your bird friend, such as “apple” or “seed.” Associate the words you teach with an action, such as giving your bird his apple treat as you repeat the word. Temperament also plays a major role, as a bird must be trustful of his human flock before he will attempt to communicate. Building a strong relationship with your parrot may just transform him into a little chatterbox.

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