If your parrot stops talking or refuses to speak, this can be worrying. However, it’s unlikely that your parrot has permanently lost its voice. It will need some care or a vet trip, but your parrot will begin talking again.
A parrot that has stopped talking is likely frightened, unwell, or adjusting to changes in its life. Abnormal silence or strained noises is an indicator that something is affecting the parrot’s health. Specifically, this will concern its lungs, throat, or syrinx. Aspergillosis and bronchitis make vocalizing difficult, uncomfortable, or impossible. Depressed parrots are also unlikely to vocalize when they haven’t received enough social time from their owners.
Seek a vet if your parrot has been unusually quiet for 24 hours or more. If its vocalizations are strained or wheezy, this is also a reason for medical attention. Parrots always make some noise. If yours won’t talk, but also won’t chirp or sing, then something is wrong.
Parrot Not Talking Anymore
Vocal as parrots are, it is quite worrisome when they suddenly stop making noise altogether. It’s important to uncover why the parrot isn’t vocal, as it can indicate serious problems. If the parrot is dealing with a medical issue, then you will need to:
- Have the parrot’s throat examined by a vet
- Administer prescribed medication
- Take a vet’s recommendation on surgery
However, if your parrot’s unwillingness to talk may be due to something far less serious. You might be able to fix it by:
- Spending more time with your parrot
- Giving it more enrichment
- Helping it feel more comfortable in the home
- Talking to it
Let’s go over the possible reasons why your parrot has stopped talking, so you know how to proceed.
Parrots need time to adjust to a new home or changes in their environment. Even small changes, like moving the cage to a different corner of the room, can inspire a “Hey, this is new” silent period.
A very vocal parrot in its previous home will likely become very quiet when brought into a new environment. The same goes if you introduce a new animal or person into your home. The parrot is trying to come to terms with the drastic change.
Have any happened in your parrot’s life? Even smaller, seemingly insignificant, changes can upset a parrot into a few days of near-silence.
Parrots are prey animals, and their instinct will be to freeze or flee when afraid. Captive parrots do not have the option to fly away, so they will often freeze and go utterly silent until the danger has passed.
What a parrot feels is dangerous may not always be dangerous. In fact, your pet may stop talking when it’s bothered by:
- A loud TV or music
- The neighbor’s cat coming near the window
- Construction work outside
- A sudden flash of light, such as from a passing car
- A loud bang, such as when you drop a pan in the kitchen
- An argument that it hears through the walls
A parrot’s tendency to overreact to possible dangers will mean it grows very quiet. In the wild, this would help it be overlooked by predators that are stalking close by. In your home, it simply means your fearful parrot refuses to speak until it feels safe again.
Parrots can also be quite vocal when startled, but not always. If it feels the threat is very close and cannot escape, it may let out a warning cry. This scream or squawk is designed to alert other members of the flock to the incoming danger.
If you hear your parrot cry out and then refuse to speak for several hours, then that’s the case. Words or phrases are merely ways to socialize, so those will not be included in the warning call. If the parrot feels the danger may still be nearby, it won’t bother trying to hang out with you by talking. As far as it’s concerned, there are more important things to worry about.
A decrease or cease of vocalizations is a drastic change in behavior for many parrots. As such, it’s a major indication that the bird is unwell. It is quite natural for a parrot to hide any illness symptoms until it manifests in more visible symptoms, like feather loss or a lack of appetite.
As such, parrots will stop talking when they feel sick or are injured. They have to devote more energy to healing or hiding their injuries. They don’t have time to chat with you.
There are many causes for illness in parrots. If your parrot won’t repeat phrases or whistle a tune, then look for these symptoms:
- Discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth
- Abnormal feces
- Tail bobbing
- Labored or wheezy breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled or missing feathers
Get in touch with an avian-trained vet if any signs appear. Parrots often show symptoms only once the illness has progressed. Acting fast may be the difference between a swift recovery and a touch-and-go one.
Parrots are smart animals. Like macaws, the larger variants are often judged to have the mental and emotional capacity of human toddlers. This means that, like you, parrots experience a range of emotions, including depression.
A depressed parrot is likely to stop talking, especially if it is being ignored. Parrots thrive when given lots of attention and enrichment. If yours lacks either or both, it will become bored and depressed.
This can result in minimal talking if you only spend 2-3 hours with it a day. If you hardly interact with the parrot, then it may stop talking altogether and even blatantly refuse to mimic phrases you’ve taught.
Likewise, parrots talk through mimicry. The more often they hear a word, the more likely they are to repeat it. If yours is not interacting with a human that it can copy, it has no reason to pick up words. Instead, it will fall back on typical chirps, squawks, or screams.
Parrots also grieve. Losing a member of the family will likely trigger a period of grief and depression. That’s especially true if the bird was closely bonded to the individual.
If you have adopted a parrot, it may also be depressed because its previous family gave it away. The previous home may have mistreated it, failed to give it proper care, or left it bored and depressed. Forming a strong bond with the parrot will help it adjust, and giving it plenty of enrichment.
Parrot Is Not Making Any Sound
It’s disheartening when a parrot won’t speak. However, if the parrot doesn’t make any sound whatsoever, this is an even bigger problem.
A completely silent parrot is almost guaranteed to have something wrong with its health. There are diseases and fungi that can enforce silence by directly infecting the:
Other illnesses can reduce the bird to a lethargic state where it has no desire to move or vocalize. These may include:
- Cancerous bodies
However, the most common health issues that stop parrots from talking are:
Aspergillosis is a common respiratory disease that affects parrots. This is a fungal infection caused by aspergillus spores infecting the throat and restricting airflow. Most commonly, this happens in parrots exposed to mold, even kinds that humans deem benign.
When left unchecked, the infection will grow until the parrot struggles to vocalize or even breathe. This can eventually result in death via suffocation. Signs of an aspergillosis infection include:
- Raspy breathing
- Labored breathing
- High-pitched whistling when breathing
Your parrot may also have a blockage in its airway. This could be from fluids generated by illness, or an inhaled object or liquid. Remember that parrots have powerful breaks that can break plastics and wooden objects. Yours can swallow a piece of a toy or shelled food it’s been playing with.
Sadly, a parrot may also cease talking in the time leading up to its death. It will feel tired, preoccupied, and maybe even sense the coming end. A well-loved bird that has lived a rich life may continue to talk, even if its “voice” lacks its previous strength. Others, especially if they’re very old, may appear to rest and show no interest in talking.
Consult with your vet if you suspect that your parrot is unwell, in its twilight hours, or has a potential airway blockage. No matter the cause, a professional will be able to help make your parrot more comfortable or resolve the issue, returning it to good health.
Parrot Lost Its Voice
Parrots do not lose their voice. While people will sometimes strain their vocal cords and cannot talk, this does not happen with parrots. Instead, your pet should never lose its voice, and if it does, this is because of damage from a medical condition.
In rare cases, a parrot will lose its voice permanently because of scarring in its throat, lungs, or syrinx. This may be from:
- Foreign bodies
These factors can irreparably hamper the muscles and tissues that make up the vocal system. However, in most cases, it is more likely that the parrot will develop a ‘hoarser’ tone.
Do Parrots Have Vocal Cords?
Parrots do not have vocal cords. Unlike humans, when parrots make noise or “talk,” they aren’t using a voice box. Instead, birds have what is called a syrinx, and it functions differently than our larynx.
Since many parrots can talk, some may wonder: How can a completely different vocal system produce identical sounds? If nothing else, that shows how exceptional parrots are by accurately mimicking speech. They don’t even possess a larynx, teeth, or lips.
In humans, the vocal region is comprised of vocal cords, which are positioned on either side of the larynx, also called your voice box. Each of the cords is located at the top of your throat. To produce sound, we push air from our lungs through the vocal cords. These control the vibrations to create the desired sound. We also use our teeth, tongue, and lips to shape sounds accordingly.
For parrots, they instead have a syrinx. This organ sits at the lower end of the bird’s throat and is composed of two parts. One is beside the bronchi of each lung. Parrots can change the shape of each syrinx and its moveable valve independently to produce sound. Air is pushed through the syrinx, and the vibrations of the muscles and valves make the right noise.
With that said, there is much we still don’t know about the syrinx. Many generalizations have been made, as noted by the Journal of Zoology. Syrinx structures vary across species and families, even in the parrot family. For example, cockatiels are not capable of producing the same range of sounds as African greys.
How Do Parrots Talk Without Vocal Cords?
What enables parrots to talk without vocal cords is their ability to alter the depth and shape of the syrinx. Since parrots can control the muscles with such precision, they can make a broad range of sounds. They can even manipulate each branch independent of the other. That helps them pick up noises from a wide range of species, including humans.
Current Biology found that birds also use their tongue to change the frequency of sounds produced. Researchers dubbed this ‘lingual articulation’ as part of the reason why parrots can mimic human speech. Even though birds lack lips and teeth, their beaks also enable them to shape the sound. That may be why parrots are more skilled at mimicking than birds with flatter beaks.
No other animal on the planet can mimic human speech to the degree that parrots can. However, vocal imitation is not specific to parrots copying humans. Parrots use this skill to copy each other and even random animals from their environment.
That’s because parrots are naturally social creatures. They will mimic sounds or calls from their flock to fit in. However, they also pick up any noises they like the sound of. If a parrot hears a cat meow or an ambulance siren, it may eventually copy those sounds, especially in situations similar to when they normally heard them.
To a certain degree, parrots can even learn what certain words and short phrases mean. That’s why a parrot will be able to associate command phrases with a desired behavior. The more you engage with your bird via speech, the more it will learn. Talking with your parrot is actually a good form of socialization and mental enrichment.
Why Has My Parrot Gone Quiet?
A parrot will not lose its voice without reason. These are very vocal animals. It is unlikely that a parrot will refuse to vocalize for an extended period of time. If yours has been unusually silent for 24 hours or more, it’s wise to call your vet.
A blockage in the throat, disease, or infection can impact the lungs, throat, and syrinx. A parrot is also unlikely to talk when it feels unsafe, sad, or stressed, even if its vocal region is in perfect health.