Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Senior parrots who don’t get speech training usually communicate in bird sounds. Their cognitive function doesn’t drastically decline with age, so you can often teach parrots to talk later in life.
If you have a good-talking parrot species, you may be surprised by how many words it can learn. The key to success is word repetition, so you must repeatedly say the word for it to be recalled.
Older parrots can be set in their ways, so you must make the learning experience as enjoyable as possible. If a pet parrot enjoys how a word sounds, it’ll likely be added to its vocabulary.
Once the parrot starts to speak, there’s no set age when it’ll stop learning new words.
Older Parrots Talking on Their Own
Parrots learn new vocabulary through mimicry, so they may learn the odd word without training. That said, older parrots are far more likely to learn to say English words with regular training sessions.
A senior parrot that learns to vocalize independently will imitate sounds and noises. This includes words its owner uses or household items, such as doorbells, car horns, and microwaves.
A parrot is less likely to communicate in human words if you have 2+ birds. Some parrots, even skilled talkers like Indian ringnecks, focus on wild communication styles, such as whistling and chattering.
If a small flock of parrots can communicate among themselves, they don’t need to talk like us. Parrots won’t copy our words if they don’t consider them valuable to their lives or fun to say.
Wild Parrots Don’t Use Human Words
Parrots only use human words that are enjoyable to say or because they invoke a response from their owners. Wild parrots don’t converse in human languages because they’ve never heard us talk.
There are instances of parrots that live at zoos and wildlife parks picking up words from humans. Unfortunately, captive parrots in these settings sometimes learn profane vocabulary.
Parrots have excellent memories and associate actions with consequences. They’ll soon discover that repeating the right words results in one-on-one attention, petting, and food rewards.
Teaching Older Parrots To Talk
Teaching a senior parrot to speak requires a consistent, ongoing routine. If a senior parrot has some language skills, it’ll be easier to build on these than to teach it to talk from scratch.
Best Talking Older Parrot Species
Some parrots are naturally good talkers and are likelier to learn to speak later in life.
The following parrot species are among the best talkers:
- African grays.
- Amazon parrots.
- Blue-and-yellow macaws.
- Eclectus parrots.
- Hahn’s macaws.
- Indian ringnecks.
- Quaker parakeets.
Some species are poor talkers and unlikely to speak at any age, preferring body language and wild communication styles. These include:
- Pacific parrotlets.
- Senegal parrots.
Consider the parrot species’ innate talking ability and have realistic expectations.
How To Teach An Old Parrot To Talk
If you have a non-verbal geriatric parrot or have never had the time or inclination to teach it to talk when it was young, you’ll have more of a challenge ahead of you.
Find some easy words to teach parrots, like bye-bye and gimme kiss.
Teaching old parrots to talk can be broken into some simple steps:
Form A Bond
Teaching an old parrot to talk involves forming a bond so that it wants to please you. This is likely a given if you’ve had your parrot for many years. However, perhaps you’ve recently rehomed a senior parrot.
Older parrots are likelier to be cautious around humans, especially if they’ve had negative past experiences. Keep the parrot calm and build a union based on mutual trust and affection.
- Regularly interact with the parrot (spend time together, handle it, etc.)
- Provide nutritious food at the same time each day.
- Speak calmly – no yelling or hysterics.
- Provide a welcoming home, including a cage with everything the parrot needs.
- Play games with the parrot so it sees you as a source of fun.
Once you’ve established a bond and it feels like part of the family, we can move on to speech training.
Speech Training Routine
All parrots relish routine, which is even more important to older birds. Provide speech training for a senior parrot at the same time each day so it becomes part of its regular schedule.
Perform vocal training with senior parrots twice daily. The right length of a lesson is 10-15 minutes. Avoid continuing for too long, even if you’re getting results, lest the bird will grow overstimulated.
Don’t attempt speech training if a parrot is tired, irritated, afraid, hungry, or distracted.
Older parrots are less inclined to please their owners than younger birds, so many need more encouragement (food, petting, etc) to engage in training.
How Long It Takes Older Parrots To Speak
You can expect to hear new words from young parrots within a few weeks. In older parrots, the process may take many weeks or months. Don’t lose heart if your senior parrot is a slow learner.
Maintain the training process and avoid showing signs of frustration. Remain upbeat.
Older Parrot Not Talking
If a once-verbal parrot ceases communication, this won’t necessarily be a consequence of aging. Parrots don’t automatically stop talking without explanation.
Common reasons for a senior parrot to stop speaking include:
- Lack of human interaction has caused the parrot to revert to wild communication styles.
- The parrot is grieving a bereavement or experiencing another kind of psychological distress.
- You stopped rewarding the parrot when it speaks, so it’s disinclined to talk.
- The parrot is upset with you and is using silence to withhold affection.
- Ill health, like a respiratory infection or inflammation in the syrinx (voice box.)
Parrots don’t forget the words they’ve been taught, so a sentence learned is retained.