When we hear the word "parrot," an iconic image comes to mind: a large, colorful bird whose most distinguishing characteristic is its ability to mimic human speech. As much as you may want to find a bird with exceptional speech abilities, it is far more important to only adopt a bird whose traits are compatible with your personality and lifestyle. Read about these eight species to get an idea if one of these birds would be a fitting pet for your household.
With all bird species, the quality and quantity of their speaking abilities will vary between individual birds; some birds even choose not to talk at all. Adhering to a frequent training schedule and making sure to provide plenty of practice can go a long way toward helping a quieter bird find its voice.
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Macaws are known for their beautiful colors, bold personalities, and advanced capabilities for mimicking human speech. Macaws are able to learn upwards of 100 different words, and some even seem to be able to use them in context. Like some other types of large parrots, Macaws are quite skilled at learning short phrases; some even learn to sing snippets of songs.
Length: 32 inches; half the total body length is in the tail feathers
Weight: 35 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Feathers of scarlet, light blue, yellow; flight feathers of dark blue, dark red, gold, sometimes green; white skin around the eyes
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Hailing from the "Land Down Under," the cockatoo is another large parrot species that have displayed speech abilities in captivity. While it has been reported to be difficult to train Cockatoos to talk, the bird may merely have a softer, sweeter speaking voice than other parrots.
Length: 18 inches
Weight: 14 to 28 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Mostly white body; some yellow feathers underneath the wings; reddish eyes in females, brown to black eyes in males
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Often regarded as the best communicators in the bird world, African Grey Parrots have not only displayed the ability to mimic up to 1,000 words, but some who have been studied are reported to also be able to associate those words with their meaning, effectively making it possible for them to communicate with their owners. Dr. Irene Pepperberg of The Alex Foundation has made great strides in studying the exciting communication and comprehension skills of these intelligent birds.
Length: 13 inches
Weight: 15 to 18 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Varying shades of gray on the body; red tail feathers
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The colorful, eye-catching Amazon Parrots are a whole genus of larger birds that can amass an impressive vocabulary. While much fuss has been made over the speaking skills of the African Greys, it is Amazon Parrots that are the most widely regarded among experienced bird owners for having the clearest voices and most accurate pronunciation skills.
Length: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 7 to 25 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green body feathers; over 15 subspecies of Amazon Parrot with different head coloringsContinue to 5 of 8 below.
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The Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot is the talking favorite among the genus of Amazon Parrots. Many even become accomplished singers. If you want a bird that's a true chatterbox, the Yellow Naped Amazon may be for you.
Length: 12 to 15 inches
Weight: 21 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Bright green color with a blaze of yellow along the back of the neck
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You might think that the most interesting thing about Eclectus parrots is their beautiful coloring and the stark differences between males and females. And yet Eclectus Parrots have strong speech capabilities; most readily mimic their owners. Having a 30-year lifespan, these shorter-lived parrots are talking companions that may be at lower risk of outliving their owner.
Length: 14 inches
Weight: 12 to 19 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green male body with blue and red, yellow on the head; red female body with purple, blue and some yellow
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While the Indian Ringneck Parakeet is not an expert at being able to mimic the human voice, this bird uses its own bird voice to capture mood and sentiment. Individuals have been known to learn up to 250 words.
Length: 16 inches
Weight: 5 to 6 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Bright green body; red and black neck ring on male, no ring or a pale shadow on female
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The Monk Parakeet is actually a small parrot. It is well known for its ability to build a large vocabulary or words and phrases. The more you verbally explain what you are doing around the cage, the more this bird will pick up on the words for things and how to mimics those words.
Length: 11 inches
Weight: 3 to 4 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Breeding for pale green, white, or blue, and yellow; orange beaks
Birds to Avoid
If you're looking for a chatty bird, avoid species such as cockatiels and doves, which are known to be on the quiet side. But keep in mind that every individual bird is different. Although some species tend to be more quiet or chatty as a general rule, always assess the individual bird you want to bring home before committing; you might just be surprised at what they can do.
Pepperberg, Irene M. The Comparative Psychology of Intelligence: Some Thirty Years Later. Frontiers in psychology vol. 11 973. 19 May. 2020, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00973