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Ever Heard An African Grey Parrot Talking?


Staff member
It is one of the most amazing things when you first hear your African grey parrot talking. Not only because the words are intelligible but also because the bird does a very good job of mimicking your voice as well. It shouldn't really be all that surprising as the African grey parrot is highly intelligent and has had a reputation for hundreds of years of being able to repeat words.

Some have been recorded with a vocabulary of almost six hundred words. There are times when you hear your African grey parrot talking that you would swear blind that your bird actually understands what he is saying. And not without good reason either. African grey parrots are in fact able to string words together in a coherent fashion because they do have a certain level of understanding.

There are two subspecies of African grey parrot. There is the Red-tailed Grey, sometimes called the Congo African Grey and the smaller parrot called the Timneh African Grey. Both of these parrots have red tail feathers but the smaller Timneh African Grey's tail feathers have a darker, almost maroon appearance. Both of these parrots produce a fine powder like down, called dander, for preening.

Both also have the same talking ability including being able to mimic and string words together logically. These parrots don't only just mimic speech. They will pick up any sound that takes their fancy. Don't be surprised when your telephone "rings" and then stops before you get there. It just might be your African Grey parrot talking.

Parrots in general do not have vocal chords so how do they speak? We, as humans, can produce sound by blowing across the top of a bottle and when you hear your African grey parrot talking this is more or less how he parrot talks. By forcing air across the top of his trachea your parrot can produce sound. He can vary the sound produced by changing the shape of his trachea. This obviously takes quite a bit of practice on the part of your bird.

This is why you will often hear your bird muttering or babbling away to himself in his cage until he is confident enough of the sound he his producing to say it out loud. You will generally, however, only hear your African grey parrot talking when he is about a year old.

It must still be remembered however that no matter how well spoken your bird is or how tame he appears to be your parrot is still very much a wild creature. At most your African Grey is only two generations from the wild. Most of his behaviors will be motivated by a sense of wanting to belong. In the wild safety is found in being a member of a larger group, a flock. As he no longer has a flock of birds to which he belongs you and your family are now his flock and he will look to you for all his needs.

African Greys can be very demanding creatures and will take a lot of your time if you are to look after one as it should be looked after. They crave attention, just like a child, and can be just as demanding, annoying and noisy until they get it. Think carefully before committing yourself to one, especially as they can live for more than fifty years.

But if you put the time and effort in they can make fantastic pets. And when you hear your African Grey Parrot Talking you will always be amazed. :)