Why Parrots Can Talk Like Humans—Do They Understand Us

Why Parrots Can Talk Like Humans—Do They Understand Us

A 8 minute read by Eddie Waithaka

#talkingparrot #talkingparrots

Given the number of similarities between humans and apes, you would think monkeys would possess the ability to speak better than (and before) any other wild animal.

You would also not expect parrots to talk since birds are nothing like us.

Suprisingly, they do.

But how🤔🤯?

Well, it turns out there is a perfect explanation for this, from a scientific perspective at least!

Now, while parrots don't have a vocal tract similar to humans, plus they have no teeth or lips to structure words and sounds, they have a voice box that's adapted to talking.

It's called a syrinx.

Actually, call that ✌ voice boxes.

It is nothing like a humans voice box, but it magically helps parrots talk.

How you ask.

Let me explain.

In humans, the voice box (larynx) located at the top of the trachea contains vocal cords that vibrate when air flows through to produce sound, which we shape with our lips and teeth.

Contrary, a bird's syrinx is located at the bottom of the trachea, where it branches into the lungs, with parrots able to manipulate the wall muscles on either side of the organ to shape and make sounds.

As such, birds don't need lips, teeth, or vocal cords.

The changing shape of the syrinx wall muscles will help almost any birds to sing and imitate sounds in nature, including parrots to mimic human speech.

Having said that, please note that parrots cannot talk like humans. They only recall a sequence of words and mimic them.

Please see the rest of this post for more awesome insight on this topic.

Do All Parrots (Parrotlets) Talk

Almost all parrots possess the ability to mimic human speech.

However, different species will have varying abilities, depending on their intelligence, personality, and vocal ability.

Some parrots are more intelligent, meaning they master more words and sting longer statements than others.

But being smart is not all that matters.

Vocal ability is also pretty important.

For instance, parakeets are pretty intelligent and can master a whole lot of words, but their vocal ability can't match those of an African grey. Large parrots have bigger chests, which process words more readily and audibly.

Lastly, there is a bird's personality.

While all parrots can talk, not all are willing.

You will once in a while come across a birdie that prefers to remain timid and silent but enjoys other parroty essences.

Do Parrots Understand What They Say

I've already covered this topic before in this post just in case you need a little more reference, but in the general scheme of things, parrots do not quite understand what they say unless they are extensively trained.

And even then, they can only learn a limited number of words or statements and only use them in context occasionally.

For instance, a properly trained African grey can correctly identify trivial shapes and colors, but that is pretty much as far as it can go.

To give you a different perspective, a parrot understands what it says while talking to the same extent a toddler the meaning of words.

Just enough to keep you happy and interested, but not enough to keep a conversation going.

Do Parrots Talk to Each Other

No, parrots don't talk to each other, but they have other ways to communicate, same as most animals.

Of course, if you mean talking like in human speech with words and all, well, No, they don't.

For a start, as we've seen above, parrots don't quite understand what they say. They only mimic people's voices and master a couple of words, which they repeat to create the illusion of a talking bird.

In fact, if two parrots are raised together and taught similar words and phrases, they can be pretty chatty to an extent you'll think they are having a chat if you don't know better.

Parrots do not understand human language or what they say. They only mimic and repeat human speech in both words and phrases.

The only proven way parrots communicate with mates and companions is through sounds, actions, posture, and how they place parts like wings, feathers, and crest.

Best Talking Parrot Birds

From experience, African greys and other large parrots are arguably better talkers than parrotlets. Even so, some tiny-bodied birdies such as budgies and medium-sized candidates like Quakers are formidable mimickers.

Below is a list of parrots, that in my own opinion, are the best talking parrots of varying sizes, with appropriate and patient training.

Please note, this does not mean any species that are not on the list are awful talkers.

**1—**African Grey Parrot

Ask any parrot enthusiast, and they will probably tell you African greys are the best talking bird in the world.

They are sufficiently audible and have a unique ability to master words and phrases than any other parrot species.

From a tender age, perhaps even at 6 weeks of age, greys are capable of learning a few simple words and develop an extensive and diverse vocabulary as they approach adulthood.

In fact, if any parrot types will come anywhere close to understanding what they're saying, an African grey is the most likely candidate.

**2—**Amazon Parrot

Amazon parrots are another type of excellent talking bird commonly kept as pets. They do not only rival greys in size and personality but also speech.

Amazons are intelligent and affectionate in nature, but like other large parrots, they require a lot of specialized care. So, I recommend you consider keeping them only if you're able and ready to commit a lot of time to your bird.

Blue fronted Amazons are considered the best talkers of the family, with the double-yellow-head and yellow-naped species following closest behind.

**3—**Eclectus Parrot

The Eclectus parrot is probably not common like macaws and Amazons, but they are not a pushover when it comes to talking.

I literally can't decide between the three species which one is the better talker.

These birdies sit silently, listening to conversations, and out of nowhere, start replaying the conversation with astounding accuracy. They can even vary their voice depending on who they are mimicking.

I've once known the number of people a family had just by listening to their Eclectus talk. It would imitate a little girl talking to the dad for a few seconds, then switch to the mum, and end with a family's toddler whining.

Eclectus parrots are generally classified among the top three parrots for talking abilities, rivaling the African grey in clarity of speech and scope of vocabulary. They not only repeat words and phrases, but some even learn entire songs.

**4—**Macaws

Macwas are known for their splendid colors, bold personality, and yes, you guessed it, advanced capability to mimic human speech.

There is a lot of chatter on whether Macaws can speak better than Amazons, but a thing that's not in dispute is both birds are talented speech masters.

Macaws are able to learn upwards of 100 different words with proper training, and some even seem to be able to use them in context.

**5—**Cockatoos

Compared to other large parrots, cockatoos are arguably decent talkers, but this does not mean they are any less entertaining. Individuals can still learn a whole lot of words and even speak in context.

You will especially love a cockatoo's laugh. It's so hilarious it can entrance you for a decent second. Most birdies mimic the laughter they hear most frequently.

I've also seen a cockatoo that sounds exactly like the owner's dog. It was literally impossible to tell when it was the puppy barking from the parrot.

**6—**Quaker Parrot (Monk Parakeet)

Away from large parrots types, Quakers are perhaps the best medium-sized speakers. Not only can they learn a diverse vocabulary, but they also tend to speak pretty clearly given their small size.

Even so, please note that not all Quakers are willingly chatty. Some may never say a word, while others are closet speakers that choose to talk while away from people and rather timidly.

**7—**Conures

There is nothing much to say about conures other than they are decent talkers, more like Quakers than any other parrot.

Both species are medium-sized, require moderately attentive care, and can learn a host of words, though the vocal ability is a tad less than large species in terms of clarity.

**8—**Ring Neck Parakeets

Last, but certainly not least, is the ringneck parakeet. These tiny birdies are unsettlingly intelligent and can learn as many words as some large parrots.

However, they are not as audible or clear, meaning you may need to be close to them to hear or even understand what they are saying.

Fortunately, they are not too demanding when considering care and maintenance, making them a favorite bird for kids and first-time owners.

Indian ringneck parakeets are quite popular companion birds, thanks in part to their beautiful coloring, medium-size, and social nature. These birds are also pretty intelligent and enjoy learning new things: The Spruce Pets.

In conclusion, another species that would have made this list is budgies, but since they are popular are treasured for other advantages, talking is perhaps not their most stunning forte.

That's all for this post.

Happy Birding🐦🦜.