Why Do Parrots Talk?


Man speaks and the parrot repeats. This species of bird lacks the ability to understand our language, but occasionally displays the ability to imitate it with extraordinary precision. Although not all parrot species have this extraordinary mimicry ability, some parrots can imitate a wide variety of natural sounds.

A conversing parrot is a virtuoso of mimicry! In the regions of South America, Amazon parrots possess acute auditory perception; they can replicate a myriad of sounds and dwell in a perpetual medley of noises. Nevertheless, the auditory imitations of parrots do not truly constitute a language in and of itself. They have merely cultivated an exceptional auditory acuity that empowers them to mirror the sounds of their surroundings.

Alex the Jaco Parrot’s Vocabulary

alex parrot
Alex, 1976-2007. Image: Alex Foundation.

The parrot exhibits monogamous behavior, maintaining a lifelong partnership with the same mate. This prompts the need to cultivate an exceptionally acute auditory acumen, enabling the recognition of its partner’s distinct call amid the perpetual cacophony of its surroundings. Furthermore, the parrot leverages its imitative prowess to outfox potential predators. These birds are vigilant, alerting each other at the slightest hint of danger, making it very challenging to study their intra-species communication in the wild.

Although these birds possess remarkable auditory faculties, not all of them are equally proficient in mimicking human speech. Diverse species of articulate parrots exist. Among the most adept are the Amazon parrots, alongside theGrey parrot and the grand Eclectus parrot. The renowned conversationalist parrot, Alex, who departed in 2007, could articulate 150 English words and grasp over 1,000. As an example, he could enunciate the name of a color. Nevertheless, neither Alex nor any other conversing parrot to date has attained grammatical prowess, hence the reason why their language remains distinct from ours.