Parrots and Talking

African Grey Parrot

Birds have ways of communicating. They tweet or chirp or squawk to communicate with other birds or to communicate with other animals. Some birds have the capability to mimic other birds or other animals. The mockingbird is a good example of this. Mockingbirds mimic the song of other birds as well as sounds from other animals or even mechanical noises, such as car alarms. The African Grey parrot is the most well known parrot to mimic an enormous array of different sounds. Most can make sounds that would be very difficult for even a human to mimic, such as the microwave beeping or an ambulance siren. Birds mimic our speech, not because they are actually learning the language like an infant does, but because they find the sound interesting. They continue to use those sounds because their caretakers give either positively or negatively reinforce the behavior. For example, a bird will continue to repeat the phrase "Hello, Polly" if his or her owner gives the bird attention whenever the bird speaks these words. The bird has learned how to mimic the sound by listening intently to it's owner and enjoys repeating it because the owner gives the bird attention when it talks. The same goes for words that owners may not appreciate, such as swear words. It's important to watch one's language around a bird that is likely to mimic you if you don't want them saying certain words. Becoming angry at the bird for saying certain words merely reinforces the behavior as it is a form of attention and birds may still respond to negative attention. The best thing to do when a bird says a word that you don't like is to completely ignore the bird when it says the word.

            Some birds, such as the before mentioned  African Greys, are believed to have brains capable of actually understanding the association of words and their meaning. They cannot form complex sentences or understand the language in depth, but they can make simple word-meaning connections on a small scale and some can form simple sentences. Parrots, as well as some members of the Corvine family (crows and ravens), are some of the most intelligent of all birds.

How birds talk:

Humans speak with their vocal chords located in the larynx. Birds, however, make their sounds from their syrinx. This area is located on the lower half of the trachea. Two membranes within the syrinx vibrate and produce sounds. Depending on the species of bird, different muscles within the structure of the syrinx allow for the production of sound. Stronger muscles produce better sounds than weaker ones. The trachea is manipulated by the bird as it passes air through it to produce sound. A bird that has more control over this tracheal manipulation will also be able to form words better.

An awesome pet:

Apart from the uncommonly intelligent birds that can form simple sentences, most pet birds simply mimic their owners. That is one of neatest thing about owning a bird capable of talking! Your bird can learn cute words and phrases such as your name or "I love you". It's fun to teach your bird words and to listen to your birds unique little voice. Bird voices, much like human voices, depend on the size of the equipment used for speech. A small bird, such as a budgie, has a small syrinx, so its voice will sound small and higher pitched. A large bird, such as a hyacinth macaw, has a rather large syrinx, so its voice will be much deeper and louder.

A bird is much more likely to talk and squawk merrily if it is happy and well cared for. Unhappy or sick birds are often quiet and not very social. Some birds that come from species that are known as "good talkers" may not talk at all or may talk very little, even if they are happy and healthy. This is something that just happens sometimes. Some birds just aren't big on mimicking words. If you are absolutely set on having a talking bird you may want to adopt one that is already a big talker, as this almost guarantees that your bird will talk.

  -  Written by: Arianna Pleitez

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