You may be thinking it’s time to adopt a new family pet and you’ve considered the traditional dogs, cats, guinea pigs, but nothing seems quite right for your lifestyle. But have you considered a bird? For the right situation, birds can be an amazing social addition to the household.
Living with a bird is as much responsibility as a dog; they need daily care and cleaning, playtime, socialization, training, and sometimes expensive medical care. However, some species can be very entertaining talkers given plenty of time, attention, and training.
Keep in mind, that birds are individuals, and some from a “talkative” species may never choose to speak, and another non-talkative bird may learn to talk up a storm. Read on to learn about talking birds and what to expect.
Best Birds That Talk
Also known as the budgie or parakeet, this small bird might be petite, but he is mighty. With an average lifespan of 5–8 years, they are intelligent birds that are extremely social and enjoy spending time with their human families. Budgies are only 6–8 inches long, and weigh about an ounce, but hold world records for the largest bird vocabularies. They can learn long and short phrases and can even learn to sing.
Budgies aren’t as loud as some of the other talkative birds. Although they need and enjoy out-of-cage time, they can also be content in a large cage while the family is at work during the day; leaving on a television helps to expose them to an ever-growing vocabulary.
Budgie voices can seem slightly garbled and gravelly, but their exuberance and wide variety of words and phrases can make up for this. For your budgie to maximize their skills, look for a very young bird at a rescue or find a reputable breeder locally that hand raises their birds.
Cockatiels are popular pets and with very good reason—they are generally gentle, social, and easy to care for. They love to be held and snuggled, and enjoy the company of their humans. With consistent socialization and training, they can become quite talkative, learning as much as 250 words and phrases, even whistling songs.
If you are looking for a talking bird, however (as opposed to one that chirps and whistles), you will want a male cockatiel. Female cockatiels generally do not learn speech as well as males. Cockatiels are larger than budgies, coming in at 12–14 inches and weighing 2.5–4 ounces, but also live longer with an average lifespan of 10–14 years. Cockatiels are excellent beginner birds and will reward their families with years of social companionship.
Quaker parakeets, also known as monk parakeets, are relatively easy birds to keep and are considered excellent beginner birds. However, be sure to check your local regulations, as they are not legal in all areas.
Quakers are small (11–12 inches, 3–5 ounces), gentle birds who are exceptionally fast learners. Because they pick up on human speech quickly, they are easier to teach and train for someone that is new to working with birds. Although they don’t have as wide of a vocabulary as budgies, quaker voices are a clearer, making them easier to understand. They can still learn 50 or more words and phrases and will even mimic other sounds in the household (like barking dogs). Both younger and older birds will likely catch on quickly to the household conversations. Repeating phrases you would like them to learn will only speed the process.
Quakers are a bit louder than budgies but are social and enjoy being around people. Overall, they are excellent beginner birds. And to top off all these wonderful characteristics—they have a life expectancy of up to 30 years.
Ring-necked parakeets, also known as Indian Ringnecks, are slightly larger birds than the prior birds on this list, coming in at 14–17 inches and 5 ounces. Their specialty is the fact they are capable of learning longer phrases, in addition to individual words. Ring-necked parakeets can repeat full sentences and can mimic many sounds they hear. The tone of their voice is also quite clear and understandable, making them fun to train and communicate with.
In some cultures, ring-necked parakeets are revered as sacred animals because of their ability to learn—and mimic—daily prayers they overhear. Because they enjoy learning longer phrases, more repetition is needed. After all, they do need to make sure everything is said clearly and in the correct order! This characteristic does make ring-necked parakeets a little more difficult to train.
They can also be somewhat stubborn, making them an “advanced” beginner bird, and probably not the ideal first bird. They are also noisy birds and will produce significant noise throughout the day, which eliminates them from consideration in apartment buildings and from anyone without a reasonably high noise tolerance.
The eclectus parrot is a medium sized bird at 17–20 inches long and weighing 13–19 ounces. They are considered gentle but do require a moderate amount of care in addition to socialization and are not an ideal “beginner” bird. However, eclectus parrots are a good bridge for an intermediate bird owner before jumping into the “advanced” species.
Males are often slightly easier to train, but both sexes need significant amounts of interaction and out-of-cage time. Over time, these birds often learn a variety of words and phrases, and they are not as noisy as other birds in the parrot family.
Although many of the birds in the Amazon group are considered good talkers, the yellow-naped Amazon is considered the best talker. They can have enormous vocabularies, and are capable of stringing together coherent sentences. They are able to understand the context, tempo, and tone, almost as if they were part of the conversation all along.
Yellow-naped Amazons are fairly large birds at 15–27 inches and 16–23 ounces, and can live to be 80 years old. These birds are extraordinarily intelligent, social, and are great communicators and singers with a clear and pleasant voice.
However, they are not for the faint of heart. Amazons in general can be very moody and change from pleasant to biting quickly. A strong knowledge of parrot body language can help avoid many painful bites, particularly from males during breeding season. This “attitude” is generally something that cannot be adjusted with training, making the Amazon a wonderful talker for more advanced bird owners.
Cockatoos are beautiful birds that are social and affectionate, almost to a fault. These birds can be described as clingy (or needy) and require hours of social time per day. They can be quite noisy, especially when they aren’t getting what they want.
Cockatoos do not rank high in terms of talking or mimicking, but often pick up some words and phrases, particularly if it helps them to get attention. Cockatoos are birds that are best for owners with the time, space, and energy to share their lives 24/7. They are not ideal for beginner bird parents.. However, when it comes to social interaction, they are almost unparalleled in the amount of time they can/want to spend with their human companion.
Everything about a macaw is big, from their large size to their enormous personality. However, they are a force to be reckoned with; without good, consistent training, macaws expect to be given everything that they want. However, they can develop a reasonable vocabulary, as well as an array of squawks, whistles, and mimics.
Macaws require a significant amount of training and will sometimes develop “habits” like lunging toward people with their massive beak—a common macaw “game” and not usually a sign of aggression. Macaw owners need to have a large amount of time to devote to socialization and training. They also need to tolerate lots of bird noise and a moderate amount of habitat destruction as those large beaks will chew everything in reach. Wonderful, bonded personalities can make up for the smaller vocabulary and loud noises for the dedicated and advanced bird owner.
These little birds are social, intelligent, and eager to show off a variety of vocalizations, including whistles, screeches, and words. Myna birds are can learn up to 100 different words and short phrases, along with a myriad of other sounds. They love their human companions, but are not particularly fond of being cuddled, or learning tricks—they are much more independent.
Mynas generally adjust well to being caged, and their diet is heavily fruit based, which means that the poop is soft, runny, and fairly smelly. This means that care and feeding is more intensive than many other birds. Rather, the myna requires a specially prepared, heavily fruit laden diet. For owners able to put in the work and maintenance required by these special birds, the reward is up to 25 years of companionship.
The African grey parrot ranks number one in the list of most intelligent talking parrots. They can learn up to 1,000 words or more and are considered to have the intelligence of a 2–3-year-old toddler. African greys can mimic sounds; however, these birds also get themselves into a lot of trouble with their intelligence. They often find places in the house to destroy and other ways of creating chaos. They can also be very moody and can deliver extremely painful bites.
African greys are good pets only for people with extensive bird experience, plenty of patience, and ample time to socialize and train their new pets. For this reason, they commonly change hands; a 10-year-old bird may have already seen 6–7 homes, which is ultimately unfair to the bird. Those that are willing to work with the African grey “attitude” may be rewarded with up to 80 years of comical mimicry, commentary, and entertainment.
Considerations Before Finding a New Bird Pet
Adopting a bird is a long-term, life changing event with responsibilities that rival adopting a new dog. But the rewards include years of social interaction—whether your individual bird turns out to be a talker or not. Every species has unique advantages and disadvantages—some adapt well to cage life and some won’t, some need special diets while others can eat pelleted bird foods.
Many in the parrot grouping specialize in ear-splitting calls and noises that can drive your neighbors crazy, while others settle for a quieter, conversational tone. Be sure to research the temperament of any species you are considering adopting, as well as information on the individual you are looking to keep. This ensures many happy years with your new feathered companion.
Featured Image: iStock.com/mayskyphoto
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