Communicate With Your Parrot. .. On His Terms!

Eb Cravens

Abstract


By far the most common question asked in our retail bird shop these days is, "Which parrots talk?" It seems nearly every pet owner would like to own a bird he or she can communicate with regularly.

The routine answer is to list African Grays, Amazon Parrots, cockatoos, some macaws and so on. Over the years, however, I have found myself replying to customers, "All psittacines communicate or talk; some are just easier to understand."

From the moment our handfed babies begin uttering little peeps and cries out of the feeding tub, their communication with human keepers By far the most common question asked in our retail bird shop these days is, "Which parrots talk?" It seems nearly every pet owner would like to own a bird he or she can communicate with regularly.

The routine answer is to list African Grays, Amazon Parrots, cockatoos, some macaws and so on. Over the years, however, I have found myself replying to customers, "All psittacines communicate or talk; some are just easier to understand."

From the moment our handfed babies begin uttering little peeps and cries out of the feeding tub, their communication with human keepers begins. "Peep," we imitate our chicks. Or "raawk," or "aayh, aayh."

"Raawk, raawk, raawk," the tiny hookbills understand and reply. Greetings, we're alive, bring food!

The earliest successful "conversation" with our baby parrots consists of imitating as closely as possible the sounds the birds make in order to encourage recognition and response. As with human babies, until a parrot chick learns to listen for specific sounds and vocalize a reply, it is not possible to move on to more meaningful words.

Quite often the earliest respondand-reply noise I learn with my baby hookbills during those early week becomes an established call for the pet as it grows up. "Pe e e ow , peeeow." I simulate their natural noise to my fledgling sun conures and receive an immediate answer from wherever they might be in the house!

Such early communication habits offer important safety benefits as the conure grows up. This natural sound tells me where he is at any time and acts as a call for help should he be in distress.

Every pet parrot in my collection has a specific whistle or noise used as a call and answer. The only real difficulty arises when one of my older parrots takes to mimicking my calls to a newer family member!

As weaning approaches, we begin by expanding our vocabulary of sounds taught our parrot fledglings. "Pssst," "tick," "cluck" and simple whistles are used along with basic words such as "hello," "hi" and "pretty bird." Though it is often weeks before a psittacine will actually speak these words, he will quickly come to recognize them - sometimes shaking his head and fluffing his feathers to indicate recognition.

At this point, communication becomes more command oriented. One of the first useful sounds we consider imperative for young parrots is a quiet smacking of lips akin to the noise parrots make when drinking. Follow this with a clear speaking of the word "water" whenever offering your pet a drink. Young birds may need their beak dipped into the water dish before they recognize the clear liquid. Weaning psittacines need to learn to replace the liquid nourishment which was supplied in their handfeeding formula.





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