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Which Macaws Talk The Best?

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

All macaw species can say at least a few words, but some are more gifted talkers than others.

Hahn’s macaws, blue and gold macaws, yellow-collared macaws, and severe macaws are widely recognized as the most skilled communicators in the family.

Parrots learn vocabulary through regularly hearing and repeating words. The more you use a word a parrot finds fun, the more likely it is to remember and repeat it.

Macaws don’t understand the meaning of English words but can gain context. For example, if you say ‘dinnertime’ when feeding a parrot, it’ll realize it’s about to be fed.

How Macaws Talk

Macaws can talk because they have a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx.

The syrinx is located at the bottom of the trachea (windpipe.) Air passes through the syrinx to the tongue, where the sound can be manipulated and turned into human-recognizable words.

Number of Words Macaws Can Learn

Most macaws can develop a vocabulary of 10-25 words. Their ability and willingness to learn new words vary based on their species, personality, companionship, and age.

The earlier in life you commence training, the more likely a parrot is to talk. Also, lone macaws are usually more willing talkers because they’re keener to please their owners than pair-bonded parrots.  

Macaws Don’t Understand What They Say

Macaws are clever birds, but this doesn’t mean they understand the words they’re using in a conversational context. The words are being mimicked and not understood.

Macaws repeat words they frequently hear from humans or have been trained to say.

They’ll understand the response to their words, though. If saying “I love you” results in petting and treats, expect a macaw to repeat this expression of affection more often.

Best Talking Macaws

Just because a parrot can use human speech doesn’t mean it will. Many parrots prefer to communicate through whistles and other sounds.

Despite this caveat, most macaws have at least some ability to mimic human speech.

Let’s explore the most popular species of macaws and the expectations surrounding speech:

Hahn’s Macaws (Red-Shouldered Macaws)

Hahn's Macaw

The smallest of all true macaws, this medium-sized bird is considered a good family pet.

Friendly and playful, the Hahn’s macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis) is arguably the most gifted talker in the macaw family.

It has a deep and croaky voice that requires a little getting used to, but once it gains confidence in speech, it can learn about 50 words.

Hahn’s macaws are more inclined to whistle for attention and communicate than enunciate complete words. To this end, start speech training early in life.

Blue and Gold Macaws (Blue And Yellow Macaws)

Blue and Gold Macaw

At the opposite end of the size spectrum to the Hahn’s is the blue and gold macaw, which is equally celebrated as a talking bird.

Blue and gold macaws (Ara ararauna) are easy to train. Through repetition, they can learn about 20 words.

The blue and gold macaw has a clear and distinct voice that can be mistaken for human speech.

Like all macaws, they’re loud birds that make their presence known.

Severe Macaws (Chestnut-Fronted Macaws)

Severe Macaw

The severe macaw is celebrated for its playful personality, reflected in its mimicry and vocal ability.

The severe macaw is among the most gifted talking birds.

They can learn an extensive vocabulary, tell jokes, and sing along to songs on the TV and radio.

While this parrot has a high-pitched, sing-song voice that’s enjoyable to hear, some owners find their noise overwhelming.

Yellow-Collared Macaws

Yellow-Collared Macaw

The yellow collar macaw (Ara severus) is a playful and easily trained parrot that loves to speak and communicate with humans.

This parrot has a clear speaking voice. While it may not use as many words as others, you’ll understand the bird perfectly when it speaks.

The yellow-collared macaw is among the most mischievous parrot species, so be mindful of what you say.

Blue-Wing Macaws (Illiger’s Macaws)

Blue-winged macaw

Parrots and crows are often compared in terms of intelligence, and the call of a blue-wing macaw is similar to a crow. Unlike corvids, they can be taught to mimic human words.

Many owners find the blue-wing macaw (Primolius maracana) delightful due to its playful and humorous personality. This will be reflected in the way the parrot communicates with you.

If a blue-wing parrot uses language that makes you laugh, expect to hear these words repeatedly.

Military Macaws (Green Macaw or Blue-Green Macaws)

Military Macaw

The military macaw (Ara militaris) enjoys human company.

While considered one of the quieter macaw species, a military macaw can be taught to be chatty and communicative with regular training and repetition.

Speech doesn’t always come naturally to the military macaw, so don’t expect a vocabulary as extensive as that of some species.

This macaw also has a more croaky voice, which new owners may find grating.

Catalina Macaws (Rainbow Macaws)

Catalina Macaw

Famed for its multi-colored feathers, this macaw usually results from cross-breeding between a scarlet macaw and a blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna and Ara macao).

The Catalina macaw is found almost exclusively in captivity, as they rarely mate in the wild.

Blue and gold macaws and scarlet macaws have different levels of speaking ability, and Catalina macaws fall in the middle. This parrot has a vocabulary of around 15 words.

The genes of the scarlet macaw are usually dominant in a Catalina, meaning this bird will have more in common with this species.

Green-Wing Macaws (Red and Green Macaws)

green-winged macaw

This large macaw will dwarf other species, except for the enormous hyacinth macaw.

Such prominent size means that the green wing macaw (Ara chloropterus) also has a famously loud voice.

They can learn up to 15 English words and phrases.

The green wing is likelier to scream than talk. It’ll likely scream when excited, agitated, or frightened, making it one of the noisiest parrots in the world.

Scarlet Macaws

Scarlet Macaw

The scarlet macaw (Ara macao) is a beautiful parrot, perhaps best known due to the character of Iago from the Disney animated classic Aladdin.

Most scarlet macaws are friendly and approachable birds with a limited human vocabulary and a loud voice.

Scarlet macaws can learn 5-10 words.

Hyacinth Macaws (Hyacinthine Macaws)

Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are a highly sought-after bird among parrot enthusiasts.

This bird – the largest of all macaws – has beautiful feathers of deep cobalt blue and is endangered in the wild.

If you buy a hyacinth macaw, you’ll enjoy the company of a noisy and characterful parrot but not an exceptionally gifted talker.

A hyacinth macaw may pick up some words, but they prefer to communicate in other ways.

How To Train A Macaw To Talk

If you want to teach a macaw to use human language, follow these 7 steps:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes to coach the parrot to talk as part of its daily routine.
  2. Start by teaching the parrot a basic word, like “hello.” Look at the bird and repeat this word numerous times, always maintaining a consistent pitch.
  3. When the macaw replies, offer a reward. Don’t expect the parrot to pronounce the word immediately. The response may be a squawk but reward the effort.
  4. Keep repeating this step over several days or weeks until its pronunciation improves.
  5. Move onto another word, but try to keep it simple again. Something like “night-night” can be helpful. Repeat steps 2-4 above.
  6. Keep moving forward with new words, attempting to teach associations, such as the word “apple” while holding an apple.
  7. Eventually, you can train a macaw conversational responses, like replying, “Who’s there?” when you say, “Knock, knock.”

A macaw is likelier to continue learning and practicing if it thinks you’re pleased with its progress.

How Long It Takes A Macaw To Talk

Most macaws start speaking at 12 months old. There’s no set time it takes parrots to say human words. Start speech training early because younger macaws are more receptive to new experiences.

Macaw Stopped Talking

Some macaws never speak, as they lack the inclination to do so. Something is amiss if the macaw was previously verbal and has ceased communicating. Reasons for a parrot to cease speaking include:

  • Illness. It has a respiratory condition, impacting its ability to verbalize.
  • Fear. It remains silent because it doesn’t want to draw attention to itself due to a threat.
  • Stress and depression. Note the macaw’s demeanor, checking for signs of psychological distress.
  • Anger. A non-talking macaw may be upset with you and grow silent to express displeasure.

If a parrot has stopped verbalizing entirely, it should be examined by a veterinarian.