Talking Parrots - Characteristics, types and breeds

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Commonly, the members of the order Psittaciformes are known as parrots. This group of birds is made up of parrots (Psittacoidea), cockatoos (Cacatuoidea) and New Zealand parrots (Strigopoidea). They all have one characteristic in common that usually attracts a lot of attention: have the ability to imitate sounds.

Some species of parrots that live in captivity can learn to imitate human words. For this reason, we say that parrots speak. However, this capacity may be more or less limited depending on the species. Some of them can't even speak. In this article, we tell you what the talking parrots and why do they do it.

You may also be interested in: Why do parrots talk? Index
  1. Characteristics of parrots
  2. Why do parrots talk?
  3. What are the types of parrots that speak?

Characteristics of parrots

These are the main characteristics of parrots:

  • Upright posture: his body is wide, strong and always stands upright.
  • Zygodactyl claws: parrots have four toes. Two of them are heading forward and the other two are heading back. This allows them to remain perched on tree branches for a long time..
  • Sturdy beak: they have a very large beak, curved downwards and specialized in opening nuts with shell.
  • Sedentary: these birds are not migratory, but remain all their lives in the same place.
  • Herbivores: most parrots feed on seeds, usually encapsulated. In addition, they supplement their diet with flowers, leaves, roots, resin, bark, fruit pulp, and arthropods. The parrots of the subfamily (Loriinae) prefer nectar and pollen from flowers. Here we leave you more information about ¿What do parrots eat?
  • Monogamous: During the breeding season, these animals make solitary nests in the hollows of the trees. In them, they reproduce with a single pair throughout the reproductive season or even throughout their lives. Polygamy occurs in a small number of species.
  • Social: Most of the species form large flocks that sleep and feed together. In addition, they often socialize with other flocks..
  • Intelligence: together with corvids, they are one of the birds with the greatest cognitive abilities. It is because they have a very large brain with a highly developed brain.
  • Vocal communication: have specialized brain structures for language. They have a special brain nucleus that allows them to learn sounds throughout their lives.
  • Very threatened: 28% of the Psittaciformes (111 species) are considered endangered or in a vulnerable situation. In addition, 56% have their populations in decline. The destruction of their habitat and their capture to sell them as pets are their main threats.

The characteristics of parrots vary slightly depending on the species. Therefore, we encourage you to read this other AnimalWised article on Types of parrots - Characteristics, names and photos..

Why do parrots talk?

Many species of parrots that live in captivity copy and reproduce human words. But, ¿can we say that parrots speak? A few years ago we would have answered no, but, currently, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) considers that to speak is "to emit words". In addition, he adds that, when talking about birds, it means "imitate the articulations of the human voice ". Therefore, there are parrots that speak.

Parrots learn and memorize our words and later repeat them. But, ¿Why do parrots talk? The answer to this question is in their behavior in nature. Basically, it is because parrots are very social birds. They imitate our words because it is what they would do with other individuals of their own species if they were in the wild..

The vocal learning of parrots begins when they hatch from the egg, that is, their first vocalizations are they learn from their parents. Later, they begin to socialize with other individuals of their species. It is from them that they learn new sounds, which they imitate and reproduce, giving them their personal touch. In fact, the sounds of parrots depend on their geographical area, so it is thought that, like us, they have dialects.

These are some of the functions that vocal learning has in parrots:

  • Sexual selection: they learn and repeat sounds to attract, get and keep their partner. In many types of parrots, the male of a pair mimics the calls of the female to indicate his interest in her.
  • Defense of the territory: Like all monogamous birds, parrots defend their nesting territory. Their objective is to prevent other pairs of the same species from stealing their nest or even throwing their eggs on the ground. It is very common for both members of the couple to make calls or even sing together.
  • Coordinated foraging: Many species of parrots gather in flocks or groups to feed together. Usually an experienced individual guides others and teaches them what foods they can eat. This shows that parrots learn from other individuals of their species. In addition, it is common for flocks to constantly join and separate, joining with other flocks from nearby territories. For this reason, it can be essential to recognize each parrot. In fact, it is very common for them to imitate the call of other individuals to communicate with them. It is believed that it could have the purpose of negotiating or exchanging information about the food.
  • Avoid predation- Many parrots group together at night and during foraging to prevent other animals from eating them. When a predator approaches, they emit alarm calls and everyone is on guard. However, it has not yet been shown that these calls are learned..

What are the types of parrots that speak?

There are many species of parrots that speak, so we are going to talk to you about the most communicative or those that have something interesting to tell us.

Gray parrot

The African gray parrotPsittacus erithacus), known as the gray parrot, inhabits the tropical forests of West Africa. Although much is unknown about their behavior in the wild, it is known that imitate other individuals in his singing sessions and making calls to defend his territory.

Regarding his speech in captivity, this animal was essential to demonstrate that many parrots can learn the meaning of some words human. In 1999, a gray parrot known as Álex learned to select objects with the shape, color and composition that his trainer requested. If the required object was absent, the parrot would indicate it by saying "none". In addition, Álex learned to ask his coach for objects, indicating their characteristics.

This animal is considered one of the most intelligent birds in the world. Despite this, their populations are in decline mainly due to the capture of individuals for sale as pets.

Orange-fronted parrot

The orange-fronted parrotEupsittula canicularis) is distributed throughout southern Mexico and Central America, from Guatemala to Costa Rica. They live in forests of moderate altitude, where they form broad communities that sleep and feed together. To do this, they form foraging groups, as we have previously explained.

Something very particular is that when a group of orange-fronted parrots finishes feeding in one place, a few individuals climb to the top of the vegetation and emit a "flight call ". So the group gets together and they go together in search of more food..

Yellow-naped Amazon

One of the species of parrots that speaks is the yellow-naped amazon (Amazona auropalliata), which has a distribution similar to the orange-fronted parrot. Unlike this, it inhabits low-lying forests that are disappearing due to intensification of agriculture. Additionally, numerous individuals are captured each year for sale as pets. For these reasons, this Amazon is in danger of extinction.

As it happens in other parrots, the amazons have dialects different according to the geographical area they inhabit. This means that each subpopulation has typical sounds. In addition, they make different calls when they communicate with a bird that is not from their group. There are also calls that are specific to each sex and played when couples sing together..

The Amazons are perhaps the best example of singing parrots. These curious animals perform duets as a couple. The male and the female emit different sounds, but they blend in perfectly. Its syllables and patterns are learned, as they vary over time.

Common or australian parakeet

Parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus) is a small parrot species that lives in Australia. Although it may not seem like it, they are a good example of talking parrots. In captivity, only males can imitate words humans in a somewhat difficult way. This can be explained by their behavior in the wild.

In nature, males mimic female calls during courtship. They prefer males who have contact calls similar to theirs. For this reason, they must learn to imitate the calls of the female. This process can last several weeks and must be done in each reproductive period.

Eclect parrot

Among the species of parrots that speak, probably the eclectic or eclectic parrot (Eclectus roratus) is the best imitator. This parrot from Australia and other islands in Oceania can learn a great diversity of sounds that it uses in many social contexts.

Something very peculiar about this species is its sexual dimorphism. The females are red and blue, while the males are green. It is rare in birds, where males tend to be more conspicuous. It may be because nesting places are very scarce, so it is the females who compete with each other. In fact, it is common for a single female reproduces with several males (polyandry). When this happens, they cooperate in feeding the female and raising the chicks..


Macaws are known as parrots of the Ara genus, which are distributed throughout Central and South America. They are the parrots of larger size and some good imitators. They are normally monogamous and fly in very noisy flocks that make numerous calls..

Due to their beautiful colors and good imitation of human words, they have been and are the most used as pets. For this reason and due to the loss of their habitat, many species of macaws are found in danger of extinction.

Here are some examples of macaws:

  • Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna).
  • Red or Macaw Macaw (Ara macao).
  • Military macawAra militaris).
  • Red and green macaw (Ara chloropterus).


Cockatoos (Cacatuidae) are a family of birds that includes more than 20 species of talking parrots. They are distributed by the islands of East Asia and Oceania, including Australia. Its main feature is the erectile feather plume that they have on the head, forming a kind of crest. In addition, they are recognizable by their white or light colors, with several exceptions of black or dark gray..

White cockatoos are one of the most popular pets. They have a lot of different calls. In addition, it is common for hit the trees to communicate at a great distance, so it may appear that they dance.

These are some examples of cockatoos:

  • White cockatoo (Cacatua alba).
  • Inca cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri).
  • Cockatoo in mourningProbosciger térimus).
  • Galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapillus).

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