It's no secret that talking birds make for popular pets. In fact, seeing a pet bird mimic human speech or perform a trick is what inspires many people to acquire a bird of their own. Some species have a greater capacity for speech than others, though no bird will learn to talk unless they can spend lots of quality time interacting with their humans and listening to repeated words and phrases. If you're hoping to train a feathered friend to mimic your voice, here are eight of the best talking birds.
Remember every bird is an individual, and some birds will never learn to talk, regardless of their species. Choose a bird because you want to give it a good home, not because you hope to show off its verbal abilities.
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The highly intelligent African grey is often regarded as the best talking bird, with some amassing vocabularies of hundreds of words. There's even research suggesting these parrots can use words in context to have simple conversations, though that doesn't necessarily mean they understand what they're saying. In any case, this kind of verbalization takes years of patient training and practice.
Length: 9 to 14 inches
Weight: 11 to 19 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Mostly gray plumage with pale edging; black beak and bright red tail (Congo African grey); tan upper beak and maroon tail (Timneh African grey)
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Not to be outdone by the bigger birds, the budgie (or parakeet) is an excellent talking bird. In fact, budgies have broken world records for the largest bird vocabulary. While their voices tend to be a bit gravelly, budgies are capable of learning many words and phrases. And because they are quite social birds, many enjoy practicing speech with their caretakers.
Length: 6 to 8 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Physical Characteristics: Green abdomen; black and yellow back; yellow head; dark blue tail; mutations include blue, yellow, white, and gray
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Many Amazon parrots can learn to speak with exceptional clarity, and they generally have very sweet voices. Their innate need to socialize is possibly what draws them to mimic humans. They're intelligent, spirited birds that love being the center of attention. They bond closely with their caretakers, requiring lots of social interaction and ample space to play.
Length: 15 to 17 inches
Weight: 16 to 23 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green body; yellow head; red at the wing bend; tan beak; white rings around the eyes (double yellow-headed Amazon)
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Indian ringneck parakeets seem to have a gift for learning longer phrases, along with short words. They also tend to speak with clarity. Centuries ago in India, religious leaders who said daily prayers in their gardens began to notice local ringnecks repeating the prayers. This led to the birds being regarded as sacred and ultimately caused people to keep them as pets.
Length: 14 to 17 inches
Weight: 4 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green plumage; blue tail; yellow under wings; males have black and rose rings around their necksContinue to 5 of 8 below.
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Quaker parrots, also known as monk parakeets, are illegal in some parts of the United States because feral flocks have become invasive, so check local laws if you want to adopt one. Quakers are very social and tend to pick up human speech quickly. Being such fast learners, they are popular among inexperienced bird owners who are new to training a bird to talk.
Length: 11 to 12 inches
Weight: 3 to 5 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green head, wings, and body; gray breast, cheeks, and throat; blue flight feathers; mutations include blue, albino, cinnamon, lutino, and pied
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While they’re usually not excessively noisy, eclectus parrots can develop an extensive vocabulary of human words. These birds are generally friendly and gentle, and they thrive on socialization with their caretakers. Some say a male eclectus is typically easier to train while the female bird is more independent and consequently better able to handle stress.
Length: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 13 to 19 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Primarily emerald green, red and blue under wings, and orange beak (male); primarily bright red, blue on chest and tail, and black beak (female)
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Although they typically aren’t superb talking birds, cockatoos can pick up some words and phrases. They are very social and affectionate—sometimes bordering on needy—and caregivers should expect to spend hours each day interacting with their birds. On the plus side, this bond makes cockatoos willing to practice tricks, including speech, with their humans.
Length: 18 inches
Weight: 16 to 26 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Primarily white plumage; pale yellow on wings and tail; large white crest; black beak (umbrella cockatoo)
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Like cockatoos, macaws aren’t as verbose as some other parrots, but they do have the ability to mimic speech. Some species, such as the blue-and-gold macaw, are known to learn words more easily than others. While their speech isn’t always clear, macaws tend to be noisy birds. So expect a bird that will talk your ear off—just not always in a language you understand.
Length: 30 to 36 inches
Weight: 28 to 46 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Green forehead fading into teal on nape, back, tail, and wings; yellow chest and underside of wings; large black beak (blue-and-gold macaw)