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different kinds of talking birds

15 Different Types of Talking Birds (With Pictures)

Birds are the only animal that can imitate human speech. There are only a relatively small number of talking birds, but they can speak due to their advanced brain structures and high intellects.

Parrots are advanced talking birds, such as African greys, Eclectus parrots, and Amazon parrots.

While their abilities aren’t as advanced as parrots, crows, ravens, Australian magpies, starlings, and mockingbirds can talk. Myna birds can mimic human speech and boast a repertoire of around 100 words.

Birds can only learn human speech when they hear certain words repeated. You can teach your pet bird to talk by adopting a regular training routine, encouraging them to imitate the sounds it hears.

Why Can Some Birds Talk?

Birds can talk because their brain structures are similar to human brains. The two vital elements are the:

  • Cerebellum
  • Cortex

The cortex controls perception, sensory information, memory, and language, while the cerebellum controls voluntary motor functions. Both parts of the brain work in tandem, allowing birds to vocalize.

Because the cerebellum and cortex are located away from each other, they’re connected by a neural highway called the pontine nuclei, which transfers information between them.

Researchers at the University of Alberta theorized that parrots, in particular, have large pontine nuclei, which is what allows them to talk in the same way as humans.

However, they soon realized this wasn’t true and discovered that, instead of pontine nuclei, they have a medial spiriform nucleus, which performs the same function and is only found in birds.

Researchers also found a correlation between the size of the cortex and medial spiriform nucleus, giving birds a more advanced pathway to becoming accomplished vocal learners and speakers.

Birds have more cells in the pallium, which are the grey and white matter covering the upper surface of the cerebellum. Talking birds have more of them than those that don’t, giving them their imitation abilities.

Why Do Birds Talk?

Birds learn to mimic human words and phrases because they see their owners as part of their flock and want to fit in.

Birds share information with other parrots through sounds and calls. Being part of a flock gives birds a better chance of survival as it provides them with protection from predators and allows them to forage for food together.

How Do Birds Talk Without Vocal Cords?

Birds don’t have lips, teeth, or vocal cords, which is why it’s so intriguing that they can imitate human speech. Because parrots don’t have vocal cords, they can’t talk, but they can mimic the sounds that they hear.

Instead of vocal cords, birds have a vocal organ in their breast called a syrinx. This is a muscular, fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord or brain at the base of the trachea.

Each branch of the syrinx features a valve that works independently, allowing birds to produce different sounds by changing the syrinx’s depth and shape.

Why Can Birds Talk and Not Other Animals?

No other animals on earth can mimic human speech. That’s because of how developed the medial nucleus is and how underdeveloped the pontine nuclei are in mammals.

Unlike other animals, birds match the sensory input from the cortex with the voluntary motor function the cerebellum handles to mimic what they hear.

Do Birds Understand Us?

Even though birds have impressive mimicking abilities, they’re unlikely they understand the meanings behind the words and phrases they say.

When owners repeatedly interact with their birds, they may gain some contextual awareness, but this all stems from behavior rather than an understanding of the meanings.

If you say “hello” to your bird when walking into a room, it will learn to say it whenever you enter the room. This will seem like the bird understands what “hello” means, but realistically, it just knows when to say it. 

Some birds can hold a conversation with their owners. Again, this doesn’t mean the bird understands what it’s saying.

What Are the Different Talking Bird Species?

While not many bird species can mimic human speech, parrots aren’t the only birds that can talk. Not all talking birds make suitable pets, but it’s impressive that they have these abilities.

If you want to know which birds talk the most, we’ve put together a list of talking birds below:

Can Crows Talk?

Can Crows Talk?

Crows have similar mimicking abilities to parrots.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll come across a wild crow that can talk, captive crows or birds that spend time around humans learn to imitate words and phrases.

The best talking crows live in zoos and wildlife centers. They mainly caw to communicate, but they also draw upon their mimicking abilities.

Crows have good memories and can recognize faces, which is why they’re able to copy human speech. They also react noisily when other crows die, highlighting just how capable their brains are.

According to Corvid Research, researchers presented large-billed crows with a playback of a familiar and unfamiliar language. They discovered that they could distinguish between human languages without training.

Can Ravens Talk?

Can Ravens Talk?

Ravens are one of the most intelligent bird species in the world.

In captivity, ravens can be trained to talk. They can also mimic sounds, such as animal calls, flushing, car engines, and beeps from appliances.

Ravens have a repertoire of around 100 words on average. They also have deep voices that they use to sing and mimic other animal sounds.

Alongside talking, ravens make the following sounds:

  • Short, repeated shrill calls
  • Deep rasping calls
  • Rapid knocking sounds
  • Bill snapping

Wild ravens are unlikely to pick up human words and phrases like crows, but ravens in zoos and wildlife centers will. The more you interact with a raven, the more it’ll learn to mimic what you’re saying.

Can Myna Birds Talk?

Can Myna Birds Talk?

Mynas are softbill birds belonging to the starling family. The hill myna and the common myna are the two main types kept as pets, with the former most commonly found in the Western part of the world.

Not only do myna birds whistle and screech, but they mimic human speech clearly and concisely, putting their abilities up there with parrots. They can mimic around 100 words, but it takes repetition and patience.

However, some myna birds develop a more extensive vocabulary than others. Talking with expression in your voice can enable them to build their skills.

Building a strong bond before you start teaching your myna bird is also an effective training technique, as it will be more willing to mimic what you say.

Most myna birds say their first “hello” at around 3-4 months, so you can build on their skills from this point.

Can Starlings Talk?

Can Starlings Talk?

European starlings are more intelligent than most other birds.

They’re considered an invasive species, so they’re suitable to be kept as pets as long as they’re rescued and not bought.

Not only do starlings talk, but they mimic the sounds of other animals, including goats, frogs, and cats. They also copy household sounds, including alarms and beeps from appliances.

Starlings mimic to protect their territory and impress potential mates, incorporating a range of sounds into their songs.

Can Mockingbirds Talk?

Can Mockingbirds Talk?

The scientific name for mockingbirds, Mimus polyglottos, means “mimic of many tongues.”

Northern mockingbirds aren’t as good at imitating speech as parrots, ravens, and crows, but captive mockingbirds learn to copy human sounds.

Males mimic and sing more than females and boast a greater repertoire of vocalizations. That’s because males must attract females for mating and do so through their vocal abilities. 

Can Lyrebirds Talk?

Can Lyrebirds Talk?

Lyrebirds can mimic any sound, including human speech, chainsaws, car engines, and music. They not only mimic these sounds but do so accurately.

Even lyrebirds that remain free but interact with humans can mimic human speech. They listen to nearby humans and copy their words and vocal pitches.

There are two main types of lyrebirds: the Superb and the Albert. Superb lyrebirds are much larger, but Albert lyrebirds have superior mimicking abilities.

Can Australian Magpies Talk?

Can Australian Magpies Talk?

Australian magpies living in close proximity to humans talk and mimic speech.

You can’t own Australian magpies as pets, and it’s illegal to traffic them outside of their native Australia. However, they’re commonly found in human habitats, zoos, and wildlife centers.

Magpies can also recognize the faces of humans and animals, highlighting the efficacy of their memories.

Can Parrots Talk?

As mentioned, parrots are among the most talented avian talkers. Not all parrot species can mimic, but those that can are good at it. The following parrot species are the most skilled communicators:

African Grey Parrots

can african grey parrots talk?

African greys are the best talking parrots. Timneh African grey parrots start mimicking earlier than Congo African greys.

A study published by Applied Animal Behavior Science found that they can use human speech in the same way as young children. Not only are they able to say basic commands, but they can recall and recite numbers.

Their advanced cognitive skills make them popular pets and are why they’re regarded as Einsteins of the parrot world.

Some African grey parrots amass a repertoire of well over 100 words, which they can use in context during conversations with their owners.

It doesn’t even take much training to get their mimicry skills to this stage. Even leaving the TV or radio on around your African grey will encourage it to pick up new words and phrases.

Amazon Parrots

can Amazon Parrots talk?

Amazon parrots are fun and outgoing. They’re also excellent talkers and singers, amassing an impressive repertoire of words that showcases their advanced mimicking abilities.

Amazon parrots have sweeter, softer voices than most other birds. This is what allows them to sing so well.

They pick up words and phrase fast, doing so with little training. However, if owners do spend time training them, their talking abilities will grow.

Blue-fronted Amazon parrots are the most advanced speakers of their kind. Not only can they mimic well, but they speak in human-like tones. Other good Amazon parrot talkers include:

  • Yellow-crowned Amazon parrot
  • Double yellow head Amazon parrot
  • Yellow-naped Amazon parrot

However, while Amazon parrots are accomplished speakers, not all will pick up the same amount of words and phrases. Some are slower to learn than others, while others won’t pick any words at all.

Cockatiels

do Cockatiels talk?

Cockatiels are a quieter parrot species compared to others. They don’t have the same extensive vocabulary as Amazon parrots and African greys.

They can pick up basic words and phrases, such as “hello” and “pretty bird.” The fewer syllables you teach them, the more your cockatiel will be able to repeat.

Cockatiels begin talking at about 8 months old. However, if you start training them earlier than this, it’ll pick up far more words and phrases and can progress to more complicated sounds.

They learn through repetition, so repeating words will enable cockatiels to grasp what they’re saying.

Male cockatiels speak more often than females, but they can all be taught to talk. As long as they enjoy the learning process, cockatiels will attempt to repeat words and phrases. 

Quaker Parrots

do Quaker Parrots talk?

Quaker parrots are good talkers and mimic human sounds very well.

Many quakers learn by listening to their owners, repeating what they hear. They also learn the words and phrases they find the most interesting.

However, if quakers don’t develop an interest in talking, they’ll never try to talk. For this reason, not all quakers develop talking abilities.

When quaker parrots talk, they make a chattering sound, which sounds similar to a radio in the background. They also speak clearly when they want to. Talking indicates they’re happy and relaxed, so it’s an upbeat sound.

Eclectus Parrots

do Eclectus Parrots talk?

Eclectus parrots are in the top three parrot species for their talking abilities.

They can build a bank of human words and become chatty when they’ve developed an extensive enough repertoire. They’re highly intelligent birds, so they respond well to training.

Eclectus parrots are also prone to self-destructive behaviors, including feather plucking and mutilation. Training them to speak provides the mental stimulation they need to be mentally healthy and minimizes the risk of stress.

Train your Eclectus parrot while it’s young, or it may become vocal and noisy.

Cockatoos

do Cockatoos talk?

Many cockatoos are expert talkers and are among the best talking bird species.

There are various types of cockatoos, and while some are better than others, they all can learn words and phrases with consistent training from a young age.

Out of all cockatoos, Galah, sulphur-crested, and cockatiels are best at mimicking human speech. They can say around 20-30 different words, particularly if they often listen to the TV or radio or talk to their owners.

They don’t have the most extensive repertoire of words compared to other parrot species. Cockatoos also babble and say words and phrases that have no meaning. That’s because they repeat what they think they hear.

If you have a cockatoo that gets words wrong, you have to accept that your bird may never become a good talker.

Macaws

are Macaws good talkers?

Macaws have a reputation for their advanced mimicking abilities. They’re able to learn up to 100 human words and even use them in context.

If you train them early enough, macaws start talking once they reach 4-5 months old. However, most develop speaking skills once they’re 8 months old.

A group of macaws was once removed from an English wildlife park because they swore at guests. Five parrots were quarantined together in one room, where they reportedly taught each other curse words.

Because staff laughed at this behavior, the macaws encouraged each other to swear even more. The swearing didn’t stop, so staff returned them to view to provide some light-hearted fun to guests.

Also, if you get a macaw, be aware that they’re loud birds that can be noisy when they talk.

Budgies

do Budgies talk?

If you’re wondering, “can budgies talk?” they possess an impressive repertoire of words, despite their small stature.

In fact, they can talk better than many larger parrot species. Some budgies can learn 100 words or more.

According to The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, budgies have a complex learned vocal repertoire of sounds, enabling them to mimic words and phrases better than most.

It can take a while to train a budgie to talk. Once they’ve picked up some words, they find it easier to extend their vocabulary.

Male budgies are better at talking than female budgies.

How To Train A Bird To Talk

Training your bird to talk is a fun, rewarding experience. However, it requires a lot of time and patience, so it must be done consistently to get results.

The key is to remain positive and not to get disheartened if your bird doesn’t mimic words and phrases as quickly as you’d like. Some birds take longer than others.

You can train your bird using these steps:

Learn About Your Bird

If you’ve already done your research and purchased a bird that should be able to talk, you can skip this step.

However, find out more about your bird’s species to see if it’s likely to mimic. If you have a bird that isn’t known for its mimicking skills, focus on doing other activities with it instead.

Build a Relationship

Building a relationship with your bird is the best way to help it learn. Birds capable of speech tend to be sociable animals that enjoy crafting bonds with their owners.

Once your bird trusts you and gets used to your voice, it’ll become comfortable and confident enough around you to start mimicking what you say. To build a relationship:

  • Frequently interact with your bird
  • Provide mental stimulation through toys and games
  • Handle your bird every day
  • Offer treats

Use Simple Words

Once you’ve created a bond with your bird, begin the training process by talking to it using simple words, such as:

  • “Hello”
  • “Night-night”
  • “Bye-bye”
  • “Okay”
  • “Pretty bird”

Hold the bird relatively close to your mouth to ensure that you have its full attention.

Repeat your chosen word or phrase, saying it in a slow, clear, and concise way so that your bird can hear and understand. Only do this for a few minutes at a time or your bird will become bored and disinterested.

Ensure Your Bird Has Fun

While you’re training your bird to speak, make it fun by offering treats and affection as a reward for repeating the word. However, avoid rewarding your bird if it refuses to do anything.

Give your bird a wide variety of sounds to repeat to prevent fatigue and boredom. If you sing the word or phrase, your bird’s more likely to copy you.

Play Recordings

Another good idea is to play recordings of the words and phrases you’d like to teach your bird.

You can leave the radio and TV on to help your bird to start understanding sounds and phrases. However, don’t leave them on for too long.

Never get angry at your bird. Some birds pick words and phrases up far more slowly than others. Some never learn to speak at all. It all depends on your bird’s personality and willingness to learn.

How Much Do Talking Birds Cost?

Unfortunately, owning a raven, mockingbird, or crow without a permit is illegal in all US states. Even then, you need a good reason to have one.

It’s not impossible, but they don’t make the best pets because they’re too wild. The good news is talking parrots are available to purchase as pets and often do well in captivity.

It costs the following to buy talking birds for pets:

Bird SpeciesAverage Cost (USD)
CrowIllegal to own in the US
RavenIllegal to own in the US
Myna Bird$500 – $1,500
StarlingsMust be rescued
MockingbirdsIllegal to own in the US
LyrebirdsNot suitable as a pet
Australian MagpiesIllegal to own and traffic
African Grey Parrot$1,500 – $3,500
Eclectus$1,000 – $3,000
Amazon Parrot$400 – $1,000
Cockatiel$120 – $250
Quaker Parrot$250 – $500
Parakeet$200 – $2,500
Cockatoo$2,000 – $4,000
Macaw$1,000 – $5,000
Budgies$10 – $35

Owning a bird that talks is a fun and rewarding experience, but the skills don’t necessarily come easy. Owners must take time and exercise patience when training their birds to unlock their full speaking potential.