Not all cockatoos are expert talkers, but they’ll attempt to mimic human speech or vocalize. How effectively they do so depends on the species, when they start learning, and the cockatoo’s personality.
When given consistent training from a young age, galah cockatoos and sulphur-crested cockatoos can become good talkers. Goffin, umbrella, red-tailed, Moluccan, and major Michell’s cockatoos aren’t the most talkative birds, as they prefer to vocalize through calls and screeches.
Repeating words is among the best training methods for getting a cockatoo to mimic your words. Some cockatoos will never speak, but they’ll be vocal in other ways and have endearing traits.
Do All Cockatoos Talk?
Some species of cockatoos are good at mimicking human speech and sounds. Many cockatoos have a soft, sweet-talking voice and can say around 20-30 words.
However, as mentioned, how accurate their mimicking abilities are will depend on the species, the bird’s personality, and how often their owners interact with them.
Birds that listen to the TV and radio are likelier to mimic the sounds and phrases they hear.
That said, cockatoos and cockatiels don’t have a large repertoire of words, especially compared to African grey parrots. It’s more common for cockatoos not to talk at all.
Cockatoos babble or make sounds that have no meaning, which happens when they mimic a couple of people talking to each other. In the end, the sounds blend into one incomprehensible noise.
How Do Cockatoos Learn to Talk?
Training cockatoos to talk isn’t easy, but it can be done.
Cockatoos are a parrot species that mimics human words, so owners can use consistent training techniques to encourage their cockatoos to speak. To do so:
- Use simple words, such as “hello,” “bye,” and “night-night,” in a happy, enthusiastic tone.
- Repeat your chosen words repeatedly until the parrot starts to recognize them.
- Make use of additional training tools, including audio recorders and CDs.
- As soon as the cockatoo picks up words, move on to new ones to ensure it keeps learning.
Researchers found that budgies have song system structures that are key to how parrots mimic words. Although they don’t know how this works, all avian vocal learners, including cockatoos, have this ability.
Regarding how cockatoos talk, they modify the air that flows over the syrinx, enabling them to make sounds. They use sounds to fit in with their flock, increasing their survival chances.
At What Age Do Cockatoos Start Talking?
There’s no set age for cockatoos to start talking. All birds are different, and their intelligence levels vary, which applies to cockatoo species.
Most cockatoos start to talk around the 10-12 month mark once they’ve matured slightly. The factors that affect the age cockatoos start talking include:
- When you train a parrot to speak.
- The parrot’s personality.
- The gender, as males sometimes talk more than females.
- How willing a cockatoo is to talk.
The sooner you interact with a cockatoo, the more likely it is to pick up English words and phrases.
If you never speak to a cockatoo, it’ll never mimic you. Similarly, if you purchase an old or rescue center cockatoo that has already established its personality and skills, it may never speak.
Do Cockatoos Understand Us?
While some cockatoos can mimic words, they can’t understand human speech. Cockatoos are likely to say words back to their owners because they recognize the sounds they make in context.
For example, owners who greet their cockatoos by saying “Hello” as they walk into the room are more likely to experience their parrot saying it back. This doesn’t mean they understand the word’s meaning, but it shows that cockatoos recognize the conversation’s context.
Similarly, humans rush to appliances, like microwave ovens and doorbells, when they beep or ring. As a result, parrots treat the beeping sound like a human word. The beep has no contextual meaning, but cockatoos learn to understand that the sound draws the owner’s attention.
How much cockatoos can understand depends on how often their owners interact with them. Humans that spend time teaching their cockatoo words and phrases are more likely to find their bird understands a more extensive repertoire of sounds. If they don’t, the sounds their parrots make will be inaccurate.
Therefore, to give the cockatoo the best chance of interacting with you, nurture its talking abilities from a young age, and engage in regular conversation to enable it to gain a contextual understanding.
Can Cockatoos Understand English?
Cockatoos aren’t advanced enough to distinguish between different human languages. For example, they can’t differentiate Spanish or Mandarin Chinese from English.
They can learn their owners’ languages, but only because they mimic the sounds they make.
This might surprise some owners, as it often sounds like they can understand what you’re saying. However, our brains fill in the blanks, making it seem like parrots have said words and phrases.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation with the cockatoo. Their mimicry skills are so advanced that their sounds are often authentic replicas of the word.
Which Cockatoo Talks The Best?
If you want a cockatoo that’s a good talker, consider one of these birds:
Sulphur-crested cockatoos are the best mimickers and talkers of all cockatoos.
They’re quick learners that can pick up a series of words and phrases with little training. However, when they speak, their speech sounds slightly slurred.
They also learn sounds like a dog’s bark and power tools. When they mimic speech, they do so amusingly.
The problem with sulphur-crested cockatoos is that they’re loud and can make ear-splitting sounds. They have a loud call to contact their flock mates in the wild.
Galah cockatoos, also known as rose-breasted cockatoos, are intelligent birds. They’re among the cleverest cockatoos. They’re not as quick at talking as sulphur-crested cockatoos, but they’re among the best cockatoo talkers.
While both genders are good at imitating people’s voices, males are better talkers than females. They can also imitate everyday sounds, like a whistle, telephone, or beep from an appliance.
However, they need to hear the word or sound repeatedly to do so.
Not only are galah cockatoos clever, but they enjoy doing things that impress and entertain their owners. Galah cockatoos are highly socialized birds.
Galah cockatoos make a high-pitched sound while flying. When threatened, they make a loud screech.
Umbrella cockatoos are friendly and like to interact with their owners. They aren’t the most talkative birds, preferring to scream and screech to communicate. However, they’re better at learning tricks.
Not all umbrella cockatoos learn to talk, and most don’t until they’re older. Similarly, getting them to talk takes training; some only learn a few words, while others can string a couple of sentences together.
Umbrella cockatoos can be noisy. They use their voices to get their owner’s attention, so they must be trained from a young age. Their environment must be comfortable to keep them quiet.
Some Goffin cockatoos frequently speak, while others don’t mimic. Most birds can pick up a few words, depending on the cockatoo’s personality and intelligence level.
Without training and socialization, Goffin cockatoos can be noisy. As they’re so vocal, many owners assume they’ll talk without training, which isn’t true.
While Goffin cockatoos respond well to training, don’t be disheartened if the cockatoo doesn’t develop talking abilities because this is normal.
Red-tailed cockatoos are another quiet cockatoo species with a calm personality.
Their natural calls consist of “craw” and “kree” sounds, which are comical and goofy. If a red-tailed cockatoo’s needs are met, it’ll remain peaceful.
However, red-tailed cockatoos are rare, so they’re uncommon pet birds.
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos
Major Mitchell’s cockatoos are among the most distinctive and beautiful birds. Their gentle temperament and colorful plumage make them highly sought-after pets.
They’re quieter than other cockatoos. They’re not good talkers, but they can mimic basic words. However, they prefer to copy whistles and alarm sounds, which they find easier to imitate.
7/ Moluccan Cockatoos
Moluccan cockatoos aren’t the best talkers, but they’ll learn basic words and tend to yell them. They also screech and scream for attention more often than talk.
What Other Sounds Do Cockatoos Make?
Cockatoos can talk and make sounds to display their feelings and emotions. Sometimes, you’ll hear a cockatoo make these sounds while talking. These sounds include:
Cockatoos make melodic whistling sounds, which they copy from their owners. You can whistle to get the cockatoo used to mimicking you, eventually progressing to talking.
Some cockatoos may prefer to whistle than talk, causing them to lose the desire to mimic.
Mimicking is the sound of a happy, relaxed cockatoo that feels safe. Some cockatoos whistle when bored and make the sound to get their owner’s attention.
Squawking and Screeching
Many cockatoo species make loud-pitched screeches, indicating they fear danger nearby. Some cockatoos screech and squawk every day, which is a natural part of their communication repertoire.
Some cockatoos squawk and screech before bedtime. Umbrella, Moluccan, and Goffin’s cockatoos are more prone to doing this than other cockatoo species.
If you frequently have the TV or radio on around the cockatoo, it’s likely to sing by copying the songs and sounds it hears.
This enables the parrot to learn basic words and phrases while you train the cockatoo to mimic. Singing is similar to talking and signifies when a cockatoo is happy.
Scientific American describes how captive cockatoos can sing lower notes than smaller pet birds, enabling them to accurately mimic human speech.
- Intimidating cage mates or other pets.
- Unfamiliar objects in the cage.
- A dislike of being touched.
- A bad or anti-social mood.
- Pain or illness.
If you hear a cockatoo hiss, you must immediately address what’s bothering them.
Cockatoos call out to find flock mates. Their call is unique to the flock so that they can locate each other. In captivity, owners are flock members, so they call to them when unsure of their whereabouts.
Calling can indicate anxiety and loneliness, so reveal yourself to put the cockatoo at ease and give it some attention. Ignoring a cockatoo is bad for its mental health, leading to depression.
Just because a cockatoo belongs to a bird species that can talk well doesn’t mean it will always do so. Use repetitive training techniques, but don’t force the cockatoo to talk if it seems distressed.