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Which Macaws Talk The Best? (Good Talkers + Training Guide)

(Last Updated On: May 13, 2023)

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

The Hahn’s macaw, blue and gold macaw, the yellow collared macaw, and the severe macaw are widely considered the most skilled communicators.

Macaws learn words through training and repetition, so the more you engage and chat with the parrot, the more likely it is to talk. Macaws don’t understand the words they use but can gain context.

Talking isn’t the primary means of communication for macaws because they can also scream, often at extremely loud, shrill decibel levels, along with various other vocalizations.

Are Macaws Good Talkers?

Theoretically, any macaw can learn and repeat at least a handful of human words, although macaws don’t boast the most extensive vocabulary of all psittacines.

How Do Macaws Talk?

Macaws speak due to the presence of the 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, and the sound can be manipulated into recognizable words.

How Many Words Can Macaws Learn?

This depends on the macaw species and the individual bird’s personality.

No macaw will be as gifted in communication as an African gray or Amazon parrot, who can learn hundreds of words, but many macaws can learn 20-30 words and phrases.

Do Macaws Talk a Lot?

Macaws are more inclined to scream than talk. If you want to own a macaw, brace yourself for a lot of general noise, especially in the morning when all birds are most vocal.

Once a macaw becomes comfortable in captivity, it’ll become increasingly chatty and conversational. The Hahn’s macaw, blue and gold macaw, and severe macaw will likely chatter throughout the day.  

Do Macaws Understand What They Say?

Like all parrots, macaws are highly intelligent. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a macaw will understand the words it’s using in a conversational context. One exception to this is the hyacinth macaw.

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

Macaws will 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 over and over.

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 invariably 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 look at the most popular breeds of macaws and the expectations surrounding speech:

Hahn’s Macaw (Red-Shouldered Macaw)

Hahn's Macaw

The smallest of all true macaws, this medium-sized bird is considered a good 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’ll chat for hours and learn a wide array of words and phrases.

One thing to note is that a Hahn’s macaw may be more inclined to whistle for attention and communicate rather than enunciate full words. To this end, start speech training early.

Blue and Gold Macaw (Blue And Yellow Macaw)

Blue and Gold Macaw

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 as many as 20 words and phrases through repetition.

The blue and gold macaw also has a clear and distinct speaking voice, which could be mistaken for a human. This parrot also has a habit of emitting ear-piercing screams.

Severe Macaw (Chestnut-Fronted Macaw)

Severe Macaw

The severe macaw is not a serious and high-minded bird. This parrot is celebrated for its playful personality and likes to feel like part of the family.

This is reflected in its vocal ability. The severe macaw is considered one of the most gifted talking birds, capable of learning an extensive 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 listen to, some owners find the near-constant noise overwhelming.

Yellow-Collared Macaw

Yellow Collared Macaw

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 voice, so while it may not use as many words and phrases as some other breeds, 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. You may find that the yellow collar macaw frequently repeats words and phrases you’d prefer to avoid.

Blue-Wing Macaw (Illiger’s Macaw)

Blue-winged macaw

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

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 speaks to you.

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

Military Macaw (Green Macaw or Blue-Green Macaw)

Military Macaw

The military macaw (Ara militaris) enjoys human company. While considered one of the quieter breeds of macaw, you can teach a military macaw to be chatty and communicative with regular training and interaction.

Speech doesn’t always come naturally to the military macaw, so don’t expect as extensive a vocabulary as you would find in a smaller breed.

This macaw also has a more croaky voice than many parrots, which some owners may find grating.

Catalina Macaw (Rainbow Macaw)

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 the Catalina will land squarely 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 breed.

Alongside speech, this parrot will scream and screech more regularly than it holds a conversation.

Green-Wing Macaw (Red and Green Macaw)

green-winged macaw

This very large macaw will dwarf any other breed except the hyacinth macaw.

Such prominent size means that the green wing macaw (Ara chloropterus) also has a loud voice and will use it to learn up to 15 human words and phrases.

The green wing is likelier to scream than speak and will never be shy about expressing itself this way.

The green-wing macaw will scream whenever it is excited, agitated, or frightened, making it one of the noisiest parrots in the world.

Scarlet Macaw

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 but have a very limited vocabulary.

This bird will usually not learn more than 5-10 words or phrases. When this bird does speak, it’ll do so loudly.

Hyacinth Macaw (Hyacinthine Macaw)

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, meaning the few available for sale will fetch a high price tag.

If you pay the asking price for a hyacinth macaw, you’ll enjoy the company of a loud and noisy parrot but not a particularly gifted talker. This bird will mostly communicate through screams and screeching.

A hyacinth macaw will pick up on a few words and phrases and repeat them repeatedly but doesn’t have an extensive vocabulary.

How To Train A Macaw To Talk

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

  1. Set aside 15 minutes each day to coach the parrot to talk as part of its 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 small treat. Don’t expect the parrot to immediately pronounce the word. The response may be a squawk, but reward the macaw’s effort.
  4. Keep repeating this step over several days 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 on with new words and phrases, attempting to teach associations, such as the word “apple” while holding an “apple.”
  7. Eventually, you can train the macaw full phrases and conversational responses, like replying, “who’s there?” if you say, “knock, knock.”

If the macaw says something you approve of, treat and pet the bird. If it repeats words you would rather it didn’t say, such as profanity, ignore it.

How Long Does it Take a Macaw to Talk?

This depends on the species of macaw. Mini macaws have shorter lifespans and experience faster development than their larger counterparts.

Most macaws can speak when they’re 12 months old, and some will chat from 3 months onward.

Starting speech training as young as possible is always recommended, as this will encourage the macaw to speak rather than scream for attention.

Why Has My Macaw Stopped Talking?

Some macaws will never speak, as they lack the inclination to do so. Something is likely wrong if the macaw was verbal and has ceased communicating.

Reasons for a parrot to cease speaking include the following:

  • Illness. The bird may have a respiratory condition impacting its ability to verbalize. According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, a respiratory infection can block the syrinx.
  • Fear. The parrot remains silent as it doesn’t want to draw attention to itself due to a threat.
  • Stress and depression. Check the bird’s demeanor, checking for signs of psychological upset.

It’s also possible that the parrot is annoyed with you and using the ‘silent treatment’ to withhold affection. This can arise if you don’t stick to a routine the parrot expects.