8 Most Intelligent Pet Parrot Species

The term "bird brain" is often used to describe someone who is a little bit less than bright, and yet this commonly used phrase couldn't be farther from the truth. Birds are some of the most intelligent creatures on Earth, and birds in captivity continue to prove this to us time and time again. If you are interested in owning a pet bird with superior intelligence, then begin your search with these incredibly precocious species. Here is a look at eight of the most intelligent types of pet birds.

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Harvard professor Dr. Irene Pepperberg studied Alex, the African Gray parrot, and other African Grays for many years. Her findings regarding cognition and intelligence in African Gray parrots changed the course of the study of linguistics and animal cognition. Dr. Pepperberg has also published books about her long relationships with these communicative birds.

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    African Gray Parrot

    African Grey Parrot
    African Grey Parrot. Photo Courtesy of Florida Parrot Rescue

    Kept as cherished companions for centuries, it's no secret that the African Gray parrot is regarded as one of the most intelligent bird species on the planet. In fact, testing concludes that African Grays have intellects on par with human children! They have been found to be unusually adept at shape recognition, color identification, and the null concept, the idea of zero or none. Grays can be taught a myriad of communication games that will strengthen the bond.

    Species Overview

    Length: 13 inches

    Weight: 15 to 18 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Varying shades of gray on the body; red tail feathers

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    Macaw

    Hyacinth Macaw
    Hyacinth Macaw. Mike Powles, Oxford Scientific/ Getty Images

    The beautiful and captivating Macaw is indeed an intelligent bird. They often wow crowds with their remarkable ability to mimic speech and perform complex tricks. There are also smaller Macaws, such as the Yellow-Collared, Hahns, and Severe Macaws that are less recognized, but they share the personality and intellect of their larger counterparts. Bigger is not necessarily better in terms of what these birds have to offer.

    Species Overview

    Length: 40 inches; half the total body length in the tail feathers

    Weight: 42 to 50 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Deep shade of solid blue on the body; bright yellow patches around the eyes and lower beak

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    Amazon Parrot

    Amazon parrot
    Blue fronted Amazon parrot. Michael Leach / Getty Images

    Another genus of birds that all share equal intellectual capabilities is the intriguing Amazon parrot. Due to their supreme intelligence and talking ability, Amazon parrots have been kept as pets for many hundreds of years. Some Amazons learn to mimic speech so exactly that their words can barely be discerned from those of an actual human. In addition to speech, Amazon parrots can be trained to perform a variety of complex tricks and tasks.

    Species Overview

    Length: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 7 to 25 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Green body feathers; over 15 species of Amazon parrot with different head colorings

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    Cockatoo

    Cockatoo Pair With Crest Raised
    boti / Getty Images

    Known more for their endearing personalities than for their speaking abilities, Cockatoos are another type of bird that scores exceptionally high on intelligence tests. Bonding is so strong that leaving these birds alone often creates anxiety. Cockatoos should learn to play with toys on their own, so reasonable limits must be set on socializing. Learning to occupy themselves during times when you cannot entertain them will prevent over bonding and learned dependency.

    Species Overview

    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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    Eclectus Parrot

    Male Eclectus parrot
    Lindsay Brown / Getty Images

    The eye-catching Eclectus parrot is no slouch when it comes to brains. Like the other species discussed here, when properly trained using positive reinforcement techniques, they can be taught to talk, perform tricks, and perform tasks that make them excellent companions. Consider an Eclectus if you want to form a strong bond with a smaller pet bird that still loves socialization and playtime with its owner.

    Species Overview

    Length: 14 inches

    Weight: 12 to 19 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Green body with blue and red, yellow on the head (male); red body with purple, blue and some yellow (female)

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    Budgie

    Budgerigars or Budgies pack a ton of intelligence, trainability, and personality into a tiny package. Not only can Budgies learn to talk as well as the larger parrots, but they can also be trained to perform a number of fun tricks that never fail to impress. They do, however, require a long-term commitment from their owners, just as with the larger birds.

    Species Overview

    Length: 7 inches

    Weight: 1 ounce

    Physical Characteristics: Light green body with black wing markings and yellow head; captive-bred colors include blue, gray, green, white, violet, yellow/blue

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    Indian Ringneck Parrot

    While the Indian Ringneck parrot or parakeet is not an expert at mimicking the human voice, this bird uses its own bird voice to capture mood and sentiment. Individuals have also been known to learn up to 250 words. When wild Ringnecks learned to mimic the prayers of Indian monks in sacred gardens, they became revered as mystical birds.

    Species Overview

    Length: 16 inches

    Weight: 5 to 6 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Bright green body; red and black neck ring (male); no ring or a pale shadow (female)

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    Monk Parakeet

    The Monk Parakeet or Quaker Parakeet is actually a small parrot. It is well known for its ability to build a large vocabulary of words and phrases. The more you verbally explain what you are doing around the cage, the more this bird will pick up on the names for things and learn how to mimics those words. Most Quakers develop a great vocabulary and can even put together multiple phrases to get their point across. Mimicking room sounds and singing are additional talents. Often referred to as little clowns, they can be sassy; this just plays into their spunky character.

    Species Overview

    Length: 11 inches

    Weight: 3 to 4 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Breeding for pale green, white, or blue, and yellow; orange beaks