The novelty of having a bird talk back to you is something that many of us revel in. That’s why so many people, when seeking a communicative pet bird, opt for a member of the parrot family (psittacines), often introducing a characterful macaw to their home.
The best talking macaw is the Hahn’s macaw, closely followed by the blue and gold macaw. Both are easy to train because they’re highly intelligent and naturally engaging parrots. Macaws can learn about 100 words. They thrive on human interaction, communicating through mimicry and responses.
We’ll take a close look at the communication skills of macaws, look at which ones are good talkers, and uncover how you can train a macaw to mimic human words.
Best Talking Macaw Species
Although one of the smallest macaw species, Hahn’s macaws can become good talkers with training.
Hahn’s macaws are a great choice for people who want to bring a small talking parrot into their home but can’t accommodate a large macaw due to space restrictions, perhaps due to living in an apartment.
They’re vibrantly-colored birds, boasting a mostly green feathered body with a yellow underbelly and a rich blue forehead and crown.
While the Hahn’s macaw is a good choice in terms of its ability to talk, it’s not the only option for those seeking a chatty pet parrot.
Aside from Hahn’s macaws, other popular types of talking macaws include:
- Blue and gold macaws: They’re renowned for picking up vocabulary and learning phrases that they use in context. Blue and gold macaws are highly vocal, mimicking human sounds and words.
- Greenwing macaws: Showcasing bright red feathers like the parrots of old pirate movies, these intensely sociable macaws can make great communicators with the right training.
- Military macaws: Green bodied with a red forehead of feathers, they can be sociable and even-tempered when shown the right care and attention.
- Severe macaws: These macaws are full of personality with high levels of communication and speech capabilities when trained and exposed to socialization with humans.
Each macaw boasts its own personality and features, making them challenging to care for yet charming parrots for those owners seeking companionship from a talking pet bird.
How Easy Is It To Teach Macaws To Talk?
Training macaws to talk isn’t just about teaching them words but about establishing socialization boundaries within and around their behavior.
An owner needs to establish a set of social norms in the macaw’s outward behavior that enable it to be happy in a captive environment. A happy macaw will be more willing to engage and learn vocabulary.
Acclimatization rests primarily on allowing the macaw to become comfortable and gaining the self-confidence to be trained to speak and interact socially with its human companions.
Once your macaw enjoys your company, you can begin teaching it different words.
How Many Words Can Macaws Learn?
Scientific studies cite mimicry as a crucial part of the macaw’s ability to speak and communicate effectively on a human level.
However, macaws just repeat words and sounds. They don’t know what they’re saying, even if it seems like they’re having a conversation with you.
The journal Plos One stated that macaws are highly sought after for their ability to mimic human speech, leading us to wonder how many words and phrases macaws can learn.
Evidence suggests that macaws can say an average of 100 words that they’ll eventually mimic at will.
Many of these sounds will be linked to words from songs that they regularly hear, with all macaws able to mimic and reproduce everyday sounds, such as doorbells.
Parrots like to repeat noises that get an immediate response from their owners, such as a noise that results in an owner answering the door.
Of course, some macaws find it easier to learn and pick up phrases than others.
How To Train Your Macaw to Talk
Unlike humans, who have a larynx, parrots don’t have vocal cords.
Birds have a syrinx, which enables macaws to repeat words that you say. However, those words will likely have a higher pitch or faster tempo than those used by their teacher.
In terms of training your macaw to talk, continued exposure over days, weeks, or months is the most effective way of teaching parrots individual words.
Avoid swearing and bad language as parrots have a nasty habit of picking up cuss words.
Watchbird discusses how sociable macaws are and how much they crave human attention. It was observed how pleased a macaw was when it made its owner happy by using certain words.
How To Teach Your Macaw to Talk
To get your macaw to talk, follow these steps:
- Start with a short and easy word that you say all the time, such as “Hi”.
- Say the word frequently and clearly so that your macaw can pick up the sounds and mimic them.
- If it makes a similar sound in response, reward them. Positive affirmation is crucial.
- Repeat, Reward, Repeat. This will become the mainstay of your training regime, as your macaw tries to replicate the sounds you make.
- Continue to build up your macaw’s vocabulary with other short words.
- Work actions and objects into the training experience, encouraging them to associate certain words and phrases with things they see and come into contact with regularly.
Once your macaw has picked up some words and shows signs of being a good talker, you can train them to respond to questions. You can do this by creating routines with questions and responses.
Why a Macaw Might Stop Talking
When a macaw stops talking, owners can become concerned that they’ve done something wrong.
If a macaw was a good talker and suddenly stops responding, the silence can be due to changes in their living situation, health, or overall mood.
Macaws that are unimpressed with changes to their living conditions or surroundings may go quiet. For example, some macaws respond poorly to their cage being moved or the introduction of another pet, especially predators animals, such as cats.
Health issues, such as aspergillosis or bronchitis, can make it hard for a macaw to talk. Also, it’s common for macaws to go quiet when they’re feeling sad or depressed.
Where To Get a Talking Macaw
Macaws can be bought from exotic pet sites and specialist bird stores, with most owners discovering that they need to nurture and train their macaws to talk themselves.
The chances of finding a macaw that’s able and willing to talk to you from day one are slim unless you adopt one that’s being rehomed due to personal circumstances.
A new environment will cause most macaws to cease talking, with acclimatization a core part of establishing a bond with your macaw and encouraging them to mimic your words.
Macaws Talking Abilities
To teach a macaw to speak properly, you need to invest many hours of your time into repeating the same words and phrases for them to learn and repeat.
Macaws mimic human speech, but they also communicate through squawks and screams with their flock. They’ll mimic human words but not in the same tone of voice or accent.
All macaws have the natural ability to speak, but their exposure to humans and willingness to learn and mimic our words that make them such accomplished talkers.
The earlier in life a macaw is taught to speak, the more likely it is to develop this ability. Some parrots just like to copy sounds that they frequently hear, such as the beep of a microwave oven. In fact, that’s what usually happens if a parrot isn’t taught how to speak.
Of the 17 remaining macaw species, the Hahn’s macaw and blue and gold macaw are the most accomplished speakers. The Hahn’s macaw is a good pet for those seeking a smaller pet parrot.