Talking parrots are a source of amusement and make great pets. Those are the things we take for granted but when you’re wandering around a pet store, or the aviary at the local Zoo, have you ever wondered how much more they could say other than Who’s a pretty boy then?
How many words can a Parrot Learn? The African Grey parrot has a vocabulary of 300 to even 1000 words and is considered the most intelligent parrot of all. However, the Amazon parrot’s colorful plumage and the fun-loving Quaker (or Monk) parrot’s vocabularies are also impressive. The size of parrot determines the size of its vocabulary.
Talking parrots provide some of the most entertaining videos on YouTube (video below) and it’s not difficult to see why you might want to bring one into your home. Before you go rushing out to the pet shop or breeder though you need to keep in mind the work that goes into teaching a parrot to speak.
This article sets out some of the aspects of owning a talking bird.
5 Parrots with the largest vocabulary (in no particular order)
1. The African Grey
Is universally recognized as being the most intelligent parrot of all. Some African Greys can have a vocabulary in excess of 1,000 words – where training is extensive.
Research suggests that these parrots can use their vocabulary to seem like they’re having a conversation, however, this hasn’t been proved and will only occur after many years of training.
Their ability to mimic contributes to this belief – for example, if someone in the house, or even on TV, drops or breaks something the parrot may shout or swear but this is because he’s heard it previously.
African greys are highly intelligent and if you want to keep one, you need a lot of time, patience, and knowledge. We compare African Greys to Macaws in terms of intelligence in this article. It will give you a better understanding of how smart these animals truly are!
2. The Amazon Parrot
Is notable for its strikingly beautiful plumage and its voice which is clear and sweet. They’re a chatty bird, too chatty for some. They have on average 300 words but when trained properly they can talk for hours on end.
3. The Quaker (or Monk) Parrot
Has a vocabulary of 50 to 60 words and has been known to use words with understanding before they are six months old. They also have the capacity to sign ‘word songs’ which may appear to be bird song. They can sometimes be difficult to understand.
4. The Indian Ring Parakeet (Indian Ringneck)
Can learn up to 250 words, depending on the interaction with its owner, and can begin using human words at around 4 months old. They are exceptional mimics and will copy the accents of their surroundings. We love Indian Ringnecks and we highly recommend them as pets!
If you want to learn more about them we recommend reading our articles below:
- 20 Reasons why Indian Ringnecks are great pets!
- Are Indian Ringnecks affectionate? This makes them special!
5. The Eclectus Parrot
Has excellent clarity of speech and is known for its mimicry. They’ve been known to sing entire songs and can also mimic sounds which allows them to fool their owners and can use their words with what seems like understanding.
Why Parrots Talk
The parrot species is ancient and according to The San Diego Zoo, the first recorded entry of a parrot in captivity was 400 B.C.
They are extremely social creatures and can’t cope with solitude or boredom, so it stands to reason they developed a series of intricate calls and sounds which allowed them to communicate with their companions.
Therefore, when we bring them to live in our homes, we become their flock and they must learn to communicate with us. This is where the art of mimic comes in.
There are complex reasons for how parrots can produce speech but I’m not going to go into them here, suffice to say, they’re wired differently.
Parrots like to fit in with their audience, so their vocabulary is based on what they hear. In New Zealand you can always tell when a new Tui moves into the neighborhood – its accent is different; until it fits in with the local flock.
There’s a story here about a British parrot that went missing – presumed stolen. It was found four years later—speaking Spanish!
Getting Your Parrot To Talk
Choosing a parrot with the right temperament is very important so try to avoid nervous or shy birds and also ones with plugged up nostrils as they are often sickly and will not learn to talk well.
- Just like a baby, a parrot is never too young to talk to. They may not be able to talk back but they can remember words.
- Start training as early as possible because the younger the bird the more easily it will bond with you.
- Be gentle and patient and don’t expect them to talk immediately. However, the more you talk to them now the easier it will be for them to rapidly pick up new words when they’re able.
- You’ll know they are listening to you when they cock their heads.
- It can take anything from 3 – 12 months for your parrot (other than African Greys) to talk, depending on their size. The smaller ones start talking earlier. The African Grey parrot, however, learns to talk when they are older and continues to learn words, phrases and sounds all through their life.
The Downside of Talking Parrots
One of the biggest pros to owning a parrot can also be one of the biggest cons – they live a long time. You will have to make a plan for its future care when you’re considering taking on a bird that can live for 80 – 100 years.
Another downside is that not all ‘talking’ birds can talk and some prefer to make sounds such as imitating the doorbell or the microwave. Whistling may be cute the first time you hear it but not so much after the 100th time!
Parrots are very social and can develop behavioral problems if left alone for too long. Even to the point of going frantic if they are left alone in a room.
They need lots of attention and if you can’t give them enough it’s an idea to get a second bird – not necessarily a parrot, just a ‘friend’ to talk to and keep them company.
If you keep a single parrot and/ or if you need to leave your parrot alone during the day, we highly recommend reading our articles below:
- 9 Facts that show why you shouldn’t leave your parrot alone!
- 9 Reasons to always keep parrots in pairs!
These articles will show you why it is best and way easier for you and your parrot, to not keep your parrot alone.
Parrots are very individualistic birds and if your sole reason for owning one is for their talking ability you will be better off buying it from a reputable breeder than from the local pet shop.
Not all parrots are talkers but your ability to get them to see you as a member of their flock will help them relax enough that they will pay attention while you train.
Invariably, owners come to appreciate their parrot as much for their personality and companionship as they do for their talking ability.
Do parrots understand what they say? African Grey parrots seem to understand, but maybe not. If an owner tells the parrot a joke, accompanied by the expressions they would usually use when telling a joke, the parrot will laugh. He has no idea what the joke is, but his experience tells him that’s what happens.
How much does an African Grey parrot cost? There are different types of African Greys, but the Congo is the most popular. Prices can start around $1,500 and go up to around $3,500. Pink or reddish color birds are rare and this will obviously affect the price, as will a blemish-free parrot. Choose a breeder carefully, based on reputation.