Talking parrots are favourite pets since the Ancient Greeks era. They amaze people for centuries with the ability to mimic human speech. There are three levels of talking abilities among parrots:

Mimicking

In this case, parrots simply echo a word and they don’t associate words with action or object. As an example, a parrot may be able to vocalize “pretty bird”, but it isn’t associated with the presence of other attractive parrots in the vicinity.

Speaking

Speaking parrots have the ability to interact in some degree with human. As an example, we could ask the parrot, “What’s your name?” and it will answer correctly. However, this doesn’t prove the existence of communication between human and animals. In reality, parrots can be conditioned to say specific words, when people say trigger phrases. Even so, we could still consider this as a responsive behaviour that represents a higher level of ability beyond simple mimicking.

Parrots are seen at a zoo in Nanjing

Communicating

Communicating parrots typically understands its vocalization and it can be considered as a cognitive speech. Instead of displaying typical conditioned responses, communicating parrots can be more flexible. As an example, we could show the parrot a red tomato and a red rose, then ask “What color is this?”. If the parrot is able to answer with “red” for both objects, then we are dealing with a communicating parrot. In this case, the parrot isn’t conditioned to say “red” when it sees specific object.

In reality, not all parrots are excellent talkers. Although African Grey Parrots are known for their ability to talk, not all of them have similar capabilities to talk. In general, we shouldn’t buy a parrot because it may talk. There are many things parrots can offer to us and we should see their talking ability as a bonus. Other than African Grey, Budgerigars, Greater Hill Mynah, Yellow-napped Amazons, Gold Macaws, Blue Macaws, Bare-eyed Cockatoos and Cockatiels are also potential good talkers. There’s no guarantee that we will good talker when we choose any of these birds.

We should be patient in the actual training session. It is important to have fun and try to make our vocalization interesting. We should allocate enough time each day to talk to our parrots. Training sessions should be relatively short and no more than 15 minutes each. To move beyond the mimicking level, we should talk in context to the parrot. It is also a good idea to use inflection and diction to make our speech more varied and interesting. We must talk from the perspective of the parrot, such as “give me some peanuts”, not “do you want some peanuts?”. To provide confirmation, we should reward the parrot with praise, extra attention and treats when they do things correctly. It is preferable to start with younger parrots. Many owners reported more success when they read stories and sing songs to their parrots. In general, we should start with simple words and work up to more complex phrases.

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