Parrots, parakeets and mynah birds are valued for their ability to mimic human speech. A bird's ability and willingness to talk depends on variables including his health, bonding with his human companions and whether or not the bird was hand raised by humans. Individual variances make it impossible to predict a bird's talking ability by its species alone.
African and Timneh Grey Parrots
African grey parrot: Grey parrots are infamous for their talking ability, sensitivity and intelligence** They are 11 to 12 inches long have silver gray plumage, black bills and bright red tails. Research suggests that African grey parrots can learn to use human language appropriately.
Timneh grey parrot: This subspecies of the African grey parrot is smaller than the African grey with darker gray plumage, a pinkish or horn colored upper bill and a maroon tail. Although Timneh greys are not as striking in appearance as African greys, but they possess similar talking ability.
African and Timneh grey parrots are not as loud as Amazons and cockatoos. They vocalize with an assortment of whistles and clicks and growl when threatened. Grey parrots need plenty of toys and human interaction. African and Timneh greys may pull our their feathers if they become chronically bored, although Timneh greys are typically less inclined to feather plucking.
Unlike Amazon parrots who usually start talking as babies, grey parrots may seem to absorb human speech for weeks or months before saying their first words. African and Timneh grey parrots are gifted mimics and quickly will pick up household sounds.
The family of Amazon parrots includes several species that are gifted talkers. Amazon parrots are identifiable by predominantly green plumage with color variations of red, yellow, blue and orange on their heads, wing feathers and tails. The best talking Amazons include:
Yellow-naped Amazon: This chunky Amazon's talking ability is preceded only by his feisty personality. Yellow-napes are mostly green with a yellow patch on their necks that expands with age. They can start talking as babies and can learn hundreds of words. If you want a talking bird and can deal with her demanding personality, a yellow-naped Amazon may be the bird for you.
**Double yellow-headed Amazon: These birds attain fully yellow heads as they mature and are gifted talkers. They are flashy in appearance with touches of red and blue in their wing and tail feathers.
Yellow-crowned Amazon: Another green Amazon, this parrot sports a yellow spot above his bill that grows with age. Yellow-crowns are excellent talkers, but may not speak as proficiently as the yellow-naped and double yellow-headed amazons.
Blue-fronted Amazon: This amazon is also prized for her talking ability. She looks similar to the double yellow-headed Amazon, but has a patch of turquoise blue above her bill.
Hill Mynahs and Eclectus Parrots
Greater Indian hill mynah: This black bird with yellow wattles and a striking orange yellow bill has white wing patches and iridescent plumage. Members of the starling family, Hill mynahs are brilliant talkers, but they are difficult to raise in captivity and are not common in the US.
Eclectus parrots: These medium parrots are sexually dimorphic; both genders can be good talkers. The males are neon green with orange bills and the females are red and blue with black bills. Eclectus parrots are considered gifted talkers.
Parakeets and Cockatoos
Parakeets: These small members of the parrot family are available in a wide array of colors. Although small, parakeets can become good talkers. Their voices are small but easily understood. Single parakeets make the best talkers, as they prefer the company and language of birds when kept in pairs or groups. Parakeets are a good choice for a first-time bird owner.
Cockatoos: These medium to large birds are known for their crests and outgoing personalities. While generally not as talented as Amazons and mynahs, cockatoos can talk and some become good talkers. Cockatoos are demanding birds and will scream to get attention. If chronically bored, cockatoos may pull out their feathers. They are best kept by experienced bird owners, and are not a good choice for those who are frequently away from home.
Tips for Success with Talking Birds
Handle your bird frequently to bond with him and teach himt o talk. Repeat the word or phrase you want the bird to learn; start with a word or two such as "hello" or "let's eat." Allow your bird to master a word or phrase before teaching him another. Expect surprises: Talking birds may learn household sounds such as barking, meowing, appliance sounds and TV jingles. Avoid teaching your bird to swear: This can be embarrassing and can discourage adoption if you later need to rehome your bird. Be patient with your bird's slow progress or refusal to talk. Individual parrots vary in their speaking ability. A tame and affectionate companion bird who talks little or not at all is preferable to a wild and aggressive parrot who speaks clearly but resists human companionship. Consider your living situation: Large talking birds such as Amazons and cockatoos can be very loud and are seldom appropriate companions for apartment dwellers.