The quick answer is probably not. While some parrots seem to be able to hold a conversation, that doesn’t mean that they’re actively conversing with us and maintaining that dialogue. This also begs the question, so how can they speak? And how do they know what to say?

How do parrots speak?

Parrots mostly just mimic the sounds that we make. They don’t have vocal cords and can’t really “talk”. If you pay attention to how they sound, it doesn’t sound human. I liken it to the sound a recorder makes, even if it’s a different pitch. They usually make sounds through the air that flows over the syrinx. They use their tongue to create vibrations that reproduce the sounds they hear. 

With this capacity to mimic, they are able to “say” words and phrases. Especially those they hear regularly. This also includes other regular sounds like doorbells, alarms, ringing phones, among others. 

Context and patterns

Parrots usually are able to pick up our patterns of conversation. This means they usually remember when we say hello and are able to control when they should “play” or mimic the sound back. They learn from what we expose them to, consciously or not, and they pick up our sounds. This can include music, dialogue from the media we consume, and other sounds. Experts say that they don’t really understand the meaning behind those sounds but since they associate it with patterns, they are able to use appropriate sounds most of the time.

Photo by Danika Perkinson on Unsplash

Sometimes, however, this can also cause awkward or funny moments. Because they only use patterns and have no grasp on sensitivities, they might send out inappropriate sounds like sending out fire alarms or mimicking the ringing sound of your phone just to get your attention. There were also accounts of parrots mimicking sounds during sex which can be awkward and embarrassing when you have guests around.

Can this be controlled?

Like most animals, Parrots usually vocalize when they need something. All domesticated animals rely solely on their companions or adoptive carers to cater to all of the needs they would have gotten elsewhere in the wild. Taking time to practice conversation and nurturing their ability to respond helps with this. Once they pick up cues on what sounds you would and wouldn’t respond to, they would stick to those sounds that are effective to what they’re also attempting to achieve. 

Connecting with them through speech and sound on a regular basis is a bonding and learning experience. Even if your parrot doesn’t comprehend what you’re saying, they can learn up to about 120 to 500 words. They also only “talk” to members of the same flock, so this means they are acknowledging you as family and increases your chances of becoming lifelong friends.



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