How to Teach an Old Bird New 'Tricks'

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 26, 2009


Parrots can live a very long time, some up to 70 years or more. That’s a long time to do the same thing, day in, day out -- even if it does have a big cage with a nice view. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your bird alleviate any potential boredom, and one of those things is to teach it new "tricks."

Since parrots are highly intelligent creatures, they love to learn. All you need are a few tips and you’re good to go.


This is one of those virtues you'll need in spades. Whether it’s a new word or an actual trick like waving, you’re going to need to be patient. Some birds will decide to pick up on the new trick almost immediately, others may decide to take the more ornery road and do it in their own, sweet time. So remember: patience, patience, patience.

Positive Reinforcement

Always reward your bird. Whether it is successful or not, an attempt by your bird to achieve what your are teaching it is worthy of praise, and maybe even its favorite treat. Some may call this bribery, but it really isn't. And, positive reinforcement will work in ways that scolding and raised voices won't. Praise and treats beget success, negativity will simply make your bird not want to try.


Similar to when you’re trying to learn a new language or a new skill, repetition is the key. Some people put this to practice by chatting with their bird daily or speaking with them about the day. Soon enough, the bird will begin to talk on its own. Others prefer to teach the bird one word or movement at a time, repeating the procedure over and over again in front of the bird until they understand. Both methods are usually successful, but ultimately it comes down to a personal choice.


You might want to think about trying to teach your bird two tricks or words at the same time. Perhaps in the morning practice one, and then in the evening, the other. This way the bird doesn’t get bored with hearing or seeing the same thing over and over again.

Whether you decide to use a clicker to get the bird to associate with the new trick, or just use the above points on their own, given enough time, your old bird will learn a whole host of new tricks.

Image: Randy Read / via Flickr

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