Last Updated on: 6th October 2023, 02:29 pm
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 understand that it’s fed when it hears this word.
Talking isn’t how macaws communicate in the wild. Most wild birds won’t have heard a human speak, so they make other vocalizations, from whistling to squawks to screams.
Are Macaws Good Talkers?
Macaws can learn and repeat some human words, but few develop an extensive vocabulary.
How Do 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.
How Many Words Can Macaws Learn?
Most macaws can develop a vocabulary of 10-25 words. The ability and willingness of macaws 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.
Do Macaws Talk a Lot?
Macaws are more inclined to vocalize in other ways than talk, so you won’t have a human-like conversation about the weather or having a bad day at work.
Macaws make a lot of general noise, especially in the morning when all birds are most vocal.
Do Macaws Understand What They Say?
Macaws are clever birds, but this doesn’t mean they understand the words they’re using in a conversational context. Usually, the words are being mimicked, 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.
Which Macaw Is The Best Talker?
No parrot, whether a macaw or any other species, should be adopted exclusively for its ability to talk.
Just because a parrot can use human speech doesn’t mean it will. Some 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)
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.
This bird 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 and phrases.
Hahn’s macaws (like all parrots) are more inclined to whistle for attention and communicate rather than enunciate full words. To this end, start speech training early in life.
Blue and Gold Macaws (Blue And Yellow Macaws)
At the opposite end of the size spectrum to the Hahn’s macaw, we have the blue and gold macaw, but this bird is equally celebrated as a talking pet.
The blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna) is easy to train, learning about 20 words and phrases through repetition.
The blue and gold macaw has a clear and distinct speaking voice, which can be mistaken for a human.
Like all macaws, they’re loud birds that make their presence known.
Severe Macaws (Chestnut-Fronted Macaws)
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, capable of learning a large vocabulary, telling jokes, and singing along to songs on the radio.
While this parrot has a high-pitched, sing-song voice that’s enjoyable to hear, some owners find their noise overwhelming.
Another mini macaw, albeit a few inches larger than a Hahn’s 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 very clear speaking voice. While it may not use as many words and phrases as other species, 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)
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)
The military macaw (Ara militaris) enjoys human company.
While considered one of the quieter macaw species, you can teach a military macaw to be chatty and communicative with regular training and repetition.
Speech doesn’t always come naturally to the military macaw, so don’t expect as extensive a vocabulary as some species.
This macaw also has a more croaky voice, which new owners may find grating.
Catalina Macaws (Rainbow Macaws)
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)
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.
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 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 a particularly gifted talker.
A hyacinth macaw may pick up some words and phrases, 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 simple steps:
- Set aside 15 minutes daily to coach the parrot to talk as part of its routine.
- 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.
- When the macaw replies, offer a reward. Don’t expect the parrot to immediately pronounce the word. The response may be a squawk but reward the bird’s effort.
- Keep repeating this step over several days or weeks until its pronunciation improves.
- Move onto another word, but try to keep it simple again. Something like “night-night” can be helpful. Repeat steps 2-4 above.
- Keep moving forward with new words and phrases, attempting to teach associations, such as the word “apple” while holding an apple.
- 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 Does It Take A Macaw To Talk?
Most macaws start speaking at 12 months old, with some learning after 3 months.
There’s no set amount of time that it takes parrots to say human words. Starting speech training early in life is recommended because younger macaws are more receptive to new experiences.
Why Has My Macaw Stopped Talking?
Some macaws never speak, as they lack the inclination to do so. Something is likely amiss if the macaw was previously verbal and has ceased communicating.
Reasons for a parrot to cease speaking include the following:
- Illness. The bird has a respiratory condition, impacting its ability to verbalize.
- Fear. The parrot 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 upset.
- Anger. A non-talking macaw may be upset with you, using the ‘silent treatment’ to show displeasure.
If a parrot has stopped verbalizing entirely, it should be checked by a veterinarian.