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can I teach an old parrot to talk?

Can Older Parrots Learn To Talk?

(Last Updated On: June 28, 2023)

Parrots are long-lived animals, and their cognitive performance remains similar throughout their lifespan. A senior parrot retains its intelligence but may find it more difficult to absorb new information.

If an older bird can speak but chooses not to, or the species is a good talker, like an Indian ringneck or African grey, the training process should be more straightforward.

If a parrot has reached its senior status in contented silence or has never been inclined to communicate with human language, you must prove that talking will be worth its while.

Regardless of age and species, expecting a parrot to talk may end in disappointment. 

Can Parrots Learn to Talk at Any Age?

In theory, parrots can be taught to speak at any age. A bird’s physiology won’t change, and it won’t experience a drastic decline in cognitive function as it ages.

Teaching a parrot to talk while it’s young is usually easier. Most talking parrots verbalize within the first year of their lives, and while juvenile, the brain is more receptive to new vocabulary.

Younger parrots are eager to please their owners and more responsive to rewards. If you intend to teach an older parrot that has never been vocal to speak, you’ll need more patience and perseverance.

Do Parrots Learn to Talk on Their Own?

Most parrots learn to speak through mimicry, so a bird may learn how to talk without input from an owner. However, parrots learn better with ongoing training from humans.

If a parrot learns to speak by itself, it’ll imitate sounds. This includes words it hears an owner use or sounds from household items like doorbells, car horns, and microwaves.

A parrot is less likely to communicate in words if you have more than one bird. Some parrots, even skilled talkers like Indian ringnecks, revert to wild communication styles like whistling.

Equally, parrots won’t necessarily use human language if they don’t consider it advantageous.

If several parrots can communicate among themselves without words and are never trained to verbalize in English, they won’t need to develop advanced talking skills.

Can parrots learn to talk at any age?

Do Parrots Know They Can Talk?

Verbalizing may be an instinctive behavior in parrots, but birds use words to invoke a reaction from owners. Wild parrots never converse in human languages (English, Spanish, French, etc.)

Parrots have excellent memories, associating actions with consequences. They’ll soon discover that speaking to an owner results in attention and rewards.

This response is no different from a wild parrot squawking for attention.

Can I Teach An Old Parrot to Talk?

Teaching a senior parrot to speak in human words requires a consistent routine.

If a senior parrot has developed some language skills, it’ll be far easier to build on this than attempting to teach a bird to talk from scratch.

What Are The Best Talking Older Parrot Species?

Some bird species are naturally good talkers and are likelier to learn to speak when older.

The following parrot species are considered the best talkers:

  • African greys.
  • Amazon parrots.
  • Blue-and-yellow macaws.
  • Budgerigars.
  • Cockatoos.
  • Eclectus parrots.
  • Hahn’s macaws.
  • Indian ringnecks.
  • Quaker parakeets.

Some species are relatively poor talkers and unlikely to speak at any age, preferring body language and wild communication styles. These include:

  • Caiques.
  • Cockatiels.
  • Conures.
  • Lovebirds.
  • Pacific parrotlets.
  • Senegal parrots.

Consider the innate talking ability of a parrot species when attempting to teach language later in the bird’s life, setting realistic targets and expectations.

How To Teach An Old Bird to Talk

If you have a non-verbal geriatric parrot, or you’ve never had the time or inclination to teach the parrot to talk when it was young, you’ll have 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 these easy-to-follow steps:

Form A Bond

Teaching an older parrot to talk involves forming a bond with the bird so it wants to please you.

Older birds are likelier to be cautious around humans, especially if they’ve had negative experiences. Keep the parrot calm and build a union based on mutual trust and affection. This involves:

  • Regularly interact with the parrot without handling the bird unnecessarily. 
  • Speak in a low, calm tone – no yelling or hysterics.
  • Provide the parrot a welcoming home, including a cage with everything the bird needs.
  • Play games with the parrot so it sees you as a source of fun.

Once you’ve established a bond and the bird feels like part of the family, move on to speech training.

how to teach an old bird to talk

Speech Training Routine

All parrots relish routine, which is even more important to older birds. Provide speech training for a senior bird at the same time each day so it becomes part of its schedule.

Perform vocal training with senior birds twice daily. Around 20 minutes is the optimum length of a lesson. Don’t attempt speech training if a parrot is tired, hungry, or distracted.


Older parrots are less inclined to please their owners than younger birds, so many need more encouragement to engage in training. This can be achieved with rewards.

Older parrots are less active than young birds and find it harder to burn off excess calories. Affection and petting will likely be welcomed once you have formed a bond with a parrot.

Varied Training

Keep a senior bird engaged with speech training by varying the words and phrases you teach.

Older parrots are likelier to grow bored if exposed to the same sounds and may lose interest if they struggle to make a certain sound. Spend 1-2 days on each word and phrase before moving on.

How Long Will It Take To Teach An Older Parrot To Speak?

Once you’ve followed the above steps, a senior parrot will be receptive to speech training.

In young parrots, you can expect to enjoy communication within a matter of weeks. In older birds, the process may take months. Don’t lose heart if a senior parrot appears to be a slow learner.

Maintain the learning process, and don’t show any signs of frustration with the parrot.

Why Is My 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 the following:

  • 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 when young is retained.