Training Parrots to Talk

Taming and training a pet bird is, to say the least, amusing. A bird can be trained to perform so many feats of skill that a clever bird can give new meaning to the phrase 'bird brain'. However, taking your bird's training to the stage where it can talk and perhaps sing like a Pavarotti Parrot is very rewarding! 

Start Early to Train Birds

Start as early as you can. If you have obtained your feather duster when it was just out of the nest, the job will be a lot easier as birds of this age bond so easily to humans. If you are gentle, kind and patient, the bird quickly learns trust and is comfortable when being handled.

In the first few days at home, don't expect the new bird to be too friendly. Allow it time to settle in and to get used to you. Talk to the bird softly and place its cage in an area where it is easier for you to engage the rascal in conversation several times a day.

When you can see Feather Face is accepting your approach, open the door and put your hand inside. Don't go any closer if the bird is scared, but instead, keep your hand still. Remove your hand when the bird settles down rather than trying to get closer to it and thus scaring it again. Your goal is to teach the bird calmness, not fear. By removing your hand when the bird becomes calm, you are encouraging calmness. By going closer to a calm bird and scaring it, you are teaching it to be fearful and distant instead of being calm.

Offer the bird food from your hand.  A millet spray is a useful treat because its length is such that you can keep your hand some distance away. As Feather Face accepts your food offering, you can gradually shorten the millet spray so that your hand is getting closer to the bird. Many cockatiels and parrots also love sunflower seeds, so these can be reserved as special training treats.

Teaching a bird to talk is fun. It seems that cockatoos and ring-neck parrots are easier to teach than cockatiels. Budgerigars are also eager talkers with most learning twenty words easily but the record is a budgerigar that learnt more than one thousand words. However, it's the Cockatoo that is the wordsmith of the bird scene.

Training a bird to talk can be done casually or deliberately. Just by having your Feather Face inside your home it will probably pick up several phrases and if you have kids, it will quickly pick up the name of the naughtiest because that's the name which is yelled the loudest and the most!

Talk Training

To deliberately speech train your bird,  schedule two elocution lessons of ten to fifteen minutes each per day. During these times, remove the bird from its cage and eliminate any distractions. Have the bird on a small perch or sitting on your hand.

For its first words try a two-part phrase such as 'Good Morning' or 'G'day'. Repeat this phrase several times over the period. The initial stage of talk may only be a 'peep' or 'squeak' in response to your voice but this is enough.  Give the bird heaps of enthusiastic 'good bird' praise and a food treat every now and then. While it may be monotonous, it is important that you stick to the one word or short phrase at first. To try to teach it too many at once will only confuse it.

The initial stage of talk may only be a 'peep' or 'squeak' in response to your voice but this is enough.


It may take a few weeks for your buddy to learn its first word but once it is over this hurdle, the following words should come quickly.

Of course, it is more natural for a bird to whistle than to talk so you could also teach it to repeat some catchy tunes such as 'Old Man Emu'. However, as whistling is easier, the bird may stick to the whistling and never get to be an orator.

Electronic Aids 

Cassettes, CDs and even CD ROMs can help to train a bird to talk but don't over use them because they can be very monotonous. Your bird will enjoy its interaction with you and your praise and cuddles are much more powerful than the inert electronic bird sitter. It would take a very clever CD-ROM to recognise your bird's successes and then to reward it appropriately.

CD's for voice training of birds contain a variety of sounds, voices and whistled tunes. Some also contain famous voices for the bird to mimic such as 'Here's looking at you, kid' by Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable's 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn'. Others are even in foreign languages!?!?!  If that's not enough, there is even a CD-ROM with live action videos of birds talking for your own prattling parrot to mimic.

One last warning - think carefully before you teach your bird rude words. A Cockatoo can live for more than sixty years and that's a long time to put up with profanities! But a parrot singing Pavarotti - now that's classy!