Polly Want a Cracker? The 10 Most Amazing 'Talking' Pet Birds
Some people want a pet that they can exercise and play with, and some people want a pet that will help keep them warm at night. Still other people want a companion -- an animal that will be an unquestioning, faithful friend through thick and thin.
That's all good for them, but there are those of us who want a companion that we can talk to. We want a voice at the end of a long work day welcoming us home with, "Hello, darling, how was your day?" For people who wish to have that type of companion in the form of an animal, a talking bird fits the bill very nicely.
However, not just any talking bird will do. Some birds speak quietly, while others will scream at the top of their lungs. The type of bird one chooses must be paired suitably with the environment in which one lives. That is, house or apartment, metropolitan or suburban. Most neighbors will not want to hear a perfect imitation of a scene from a horror film. At any time of day. But, perhaps you live in the countryside and the only audio comfort that needs to be taken into consideration is your own. In that case, you will need to decide how much noise you can handle through the day.
All talking birds are great fun to have as companions, but some are better at verbalizing and enunciating their words than others. Some species have better memory than others and are able to store hundreds, even thousands of words into their little bird brains. Then there are the select few, like the African Grey, that are able to listen to people talk, discern the proper context and situation, and hold a reasonable conversation (reasonable within the context of being a bird).
There are even birds that will break out of their norm and surprise everyone with its highly capable memory and language skills. It is those extraordinary birds that are often showcased on shows like Animal Planet.
For this list, we based our choices on the special abilities of species within the bird classes. Amazons, for example, are a large group, but only a handful are known for being talented with speech. And then there are some species that can talk, but they tend to be garbled, or they are known to spend more time screeching than they do speaking. These species were not included.
#10 Budgerigar — Also known as the Budgie, or Parakeet, this common little bird is capable of learning a large number of phrases and songs. Their voice tends to be low and not always defined, and males tend to train better than females.
#9 Monk Parakeet — Also called the Quaker Parakeet, this colorful little bird is actually a small parrot. They are known for being very clever and social, developing large vocabularies of phrases and words.
#8 Blue-Fronted Amazon — If you want a companion for life, this is a good fit. The Blue-Fronted can live for up to 100 years, or more. They have an excellent speaking voice, with a strong ability to mimic human voices.
#7 Indian Ringneck — Very clever little birds, Indian Ringnecks can develop a large vocabulary, and speak very clearly in sentences. Not so much for mimicking the pitch of a human voice, they more often speak in their own bird voices, though they can carry the mood of the phrase.
#6 Eclectus — Known for being especially gender dimorphous -- the male is green and the female bright red -- this parrot is able to verbalize distinctly and mimic the tone and mood of language. While its capabilities are strong, these abilities depend entirely on training from an early age.
#5 Yellow-Crowned Amazon — Considered to be nearly as good as the Yellow-Naped, with less of a tendency to nip.
#4 Double Yellow Head Amazon — Closely following the Yellow-Naped, with an excellent ability to mimic human voices and a love for song.
#3 Hill Myna — This pretty little black bird has an amazing capacity for mimicking human voices, with a varied range of pitch and tonality.
#2 Yellow-Naped Amazon — Of the Amazon parrots, the Yellow-Naped is the best known for its speaking abilities. They love to sing and are highly intelligent, with an uncanny ability to mimic human speech and cadence.
#1 African Grey — The African Grey is widely considered to be the smartest of the talking birds, and one of the most intelligent in the animal kingdom overall. Some experts say they approach the ability to speak and relate concepts on the level of a human toddler. Of the two standard "domesticated" species, the Timneh African Grey tends to learn to speak at a younger age than the Congo African Grey.
One word of caution. Although we love talking birds here at petMD, we must stress that it is important to choose a bird as a living companion because you love birds, not because you want to impress people with your talking bird. Even at the highest level of ability, there are still some birds that will not talk, no matter what you do or how early you train. Just as there are quiet, shy people, there are quiet and shy birds. And, just as with people, some birds are smarter than others. Do your research before adopting a bird and find a breeder who can introduce you to the breeding pair, so that you at least have an idea of the capabilities of the bird you will be adopting.
Image: Eric Bryan / via Flickr