One of the most common reasons people have for buying a pet bird is the desire for a talking pet. Most people think of the talented African grey when they picture a talking bird, but quite a few different types of birds can actually learn to talk. In fact, some finch owners say their birds learned a few simple words. Of course, not all birds talk as well or as easily as other birds.
While the African grey is certainly the best talker, Amazon parrots, Quaker parakeets, American budgies, cockatiels, Nanday conures and cockatoos are also great talkers. Lovebirds, most other conure species and Senegal parrots will usually pick up a few phrases fairly rapidly, as well.
However, no matter what bird species you choose, keep in mind that baby birds need to learn how to talk, just as human babies do. Your bird probably will not already be talking when you buy it. In fact, not all birds will learn to talk. Even those that do learn to talk do not all learn many phrases. If your sole purpose for owning a bird is to have a talker, you may want to buy an older bird that is already talking. Just be aware that a bird that is already talking may know some phrases that are not family friendly.
To teach a bird that does not already know to talk is harder than teaching a new phrase to a bird that already talks. This is because you are teaching a completely new skill. While some people try to use tapes or CDs that repeat phrases over and over again to teach their birds to talk, directly interacting with your birds works much better.
Begin by choosing a simple word or phrase. Words with the letter ‘r’ in them seem to be especially easy for birds to pick up, which is probably why almost every bird that talks knows the phrase ‘pretty bird’. Once you choose a phrase, repeat it to your bird in a clear voice every time you interact with him.
Soon, you may begin to notice your bird sitting in a corner of his cage making sounds under his breath. This is a good sign, as it means he is practicing his speech. He will mutter quietly to himself to try to get the sounds exactly right before he attempts to repeat the word or phrase aloud.
If your bird doesn’t seem interested in listening to you, try speaking in a higher than normal voice. Most birds learn more readily from someone who is not speaking in a deep baritone. Since angry people tend to talk in high, excited voices, someone swearing angrily is especially attractive to birds and they often pick up foul language quite readily.
Be sure you don’t say anything you don’t want your bird repeating. If he does pick up foul language, ignore him completely when he repeats the word and give him plenty of attention when he repeats more acceptable words. Sometimes, this will be enough to break him from using foul language.
If your bird is not picking up any words, you may be tempted to try to teach him to whistle. Just be aware that birds that learn to whistle may not be interested in learning to talk. However, they can be quite talented and will learn to whistle entire songs.
Finally, don’t think you have to wait until your bird reaches a certain age to begin teaching him to talk. You can begin working with your bird before he is even weaned, so if you have a deposit on a baby that is still being handfed, ask the breeder to repeat a phrase like ‘pretty bird’ to him each time he is being fed.