Words and Phrases to Teach a Parrot

Several species of birds are able to imitate human speech, but parrots have mastered the ability. They don't do it to have intimate conversations with their owners but rather to "fit in" with their flock, according to a 2015 study published in Plos One.

The lucky owners of the parrots that imitate human speech are often at a loss as to what types of words and phrases would be best to teach their pets. Start with the basics to see what type of imitation and learning capacity your parrot possesses, and take it from there. You never know—your bird could become the world's next big talking talent.

  • 01 of 05

    "Hello!"

    Girl holding parrot on arm
    Mike Powell / Getty Images

    Teaching your bird to say "Hello" is often the first thing bird owners try to do with their parrots, and for good reason—the word "hello" is short and easy for birds to articulate, and it offers an ideal starting point to teaching your bird an impressive vocabulary.

    As with any bird training exercise, it's important to remain patient with your bird and practice daily repetition. Some types of parrots are more adept at talking than others; top talkers include African gray parrots, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, and cockatiels.

  • 02 of 05

    Names

    Young Emirati man with a parrot.
    Celia Peterson / Getty Images

    Teaching your bird to say its own name is a good way to encourage speech in parrots. A bird's name is a word that they will hear many times per day throughout their lifetime, so it is only natural that they would try to vocalize it themselves.

    Once your bird learns its name, try teaching it to say your name or the names of other pets or family members. You may be surprised at how readily your bird picks up on calling out to you and others.

  • 03 of 05

    "Hungry" and "Thirsty"

    Cropped Hands Feeding Lorikeets From Cups
    Don Oltmann / EyeEm / Getty Images

    If you speak to parrots in context, they are able to learn what certain words actually mean, and in turn, use them appropriately in speech. If you are trying to encourage speech in your parrot, try to make a point of saying "hungry" and "thirsty" whenever you refill or refresh the bird's food and water bowls.

    Over time, it is possible that your bird will be able to pick up on the meanings of these words as well as how to articulate them, and will begin letting you know verbally when it is ready for a snack.

  • 04 of 05

    "Pretty Bird"

    Father and son playing with a pet parrot
    Lane Oatey/Blue Jean Images / Getty Images

    The phrase "pretty bird" has long been popular with pet bird owners who are trying to teach their pets to speak. Like "hello," "pretty bird" is a short, quick phrase that many birds seem to find interesting.

    Don't expect your parrot to be able to imitate multi-word phrases until it's mastered single words. The way to help your bird master the words and phrases is by repetition—after all, the bird is mimicking you, and the best way to mimic anything is to hear it over and over again.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Your Favorite Song

    Buds of a feather flock together
    PeopleImages / Getty Images

    One fun way to encourage speech in your parrot is to try teaching it part of one of your favorite songs. Birds are naturally inclined to enjoy music, and many make this apparent by "dancing" whenever their owners turn up the tunes.

    To teach your bird a song, start out line by line and see how far you can build on it. Even if your musical tastes don't exactly mesh with your bird's, trying to learn a song together will be great fun for both of you.