Taming and Training
Teaching Your Bird to Talk
Of our little feathered buddies, budgies and cockatiels are known to be the best talkers. However, bear in mind that not all birds will talk even if they are a member of a particular species that are renowned for talking. For instance, some African grey parrots never talk.
If you have more than one bird, it dramatically decreases the chances that your birds will talk. This is simply because birds prefer to talk in their native tongue when they have a companion that can understand them. When you are the only one that your bird can socialize with, he will make an effort on his part to "learn" your language because chances are you will not be able to learn his language. For this very reason, if you have one bird and hope for him to talk, make sure that you do not supply him with any mirrored toys. He will think that his reflection is another bird with which he can socialize with and then not put any effort into learning to talk in English. Another factor that may affect the talking ability of your bird is its sex. Males are known to be better talkers than females. This does not mean that females cannot learn to talk as well. Lastly, it should be noted that birds pick up changes in tone and are able to mimic relatively high-pitched female voices more easily than the low-pitched male voices.
The following are tips to guide you to teach your bird to talk.
Start off with easy phrases or words: when your bird advances in his skills to pick up speech, you can then turn to longer words ore phrases. To start off though, stick with simple things that your bird can pick up.
Repeat, repeat, repeat: the more often your bird hears the same word or phrase with the same intonation, the more likely it is that he will learn to say it himself. Repeat the same phrase every opportunity you get - whether it be when you are simply walking past the cage or during the quality time you spend with your bird.
Don't change the word or phrase: this will only confuse your bird. If he is learning one phrase and then you try to introduce another phrase, it will be confused as which one he should attempt to learn. If you continue to keep changing phrases while he is trying to learn the previous phrases, he may become distraught and give up.
Keep the training sessions short: Spend 5-10 minutes several times a day with your bird on your finger saying the word or phrase to him. If he gets bored or distractible it's time to stop the lesson for now. Try again later. If you try to push training sessions too long, this may prompt your bird to lose interest in learning.
Train your bird in a quiet place: Remember that all sounds are merely sound waves and it is these waves that your birds pick up and memorize. If there are other sound waves near by, such as the TV running, the sound waves from the TV and from your mouth will conflict and confuse your bird as to which one he is to learn.
Speak with enthusiasm: if you sound bored speaking English do you really think the bird will want to speak English?
Speak slowly: if you speak too fast, your bird will be confused with the jumble and will not be able to pick up anything. If you speak slowly, not only will your bird be able to pick up the vibrations but he can also follow your lip movement. He will be able to observe your mouth and hear the sounds coming form your mouth.
Speak close to your bird in a gentle tone: Birds love to feel the "tickle" of the sounds that they hear. So when you talk to him, stand near him so the vibration of the sounds from your mouth are close to his ear. He will like this. It's fun and it feels good to the bird's sensitive eardrum.
Birds have no outer ears, obviously. A bird has only one columella in its middle ear (a person has three) that picks up sound vibrations from the eardrum and transmits them to the bird's inner ear. The middle ear communicates with air cavities that occupy the surrounding skull bones and extend into the bird's beak (mandible). The inner ear is the sensory receptor for both equilibrium and sound. The auditory receptor rests on a basilar membrane that contains sensitive hair cells. When these sensitive hair cells vibrate then these sound-vibrations are transmitted from the hair cells to the bird's brain where they are interpreted as sounds. This stimulation of the hair cells in a bird's inner ear feels good to the bird. He loves to hear beautiful noises and to imitate the noises. Use a gentle tone to please him. Very loud sounds can be harmful to a bird's sensitive hearing. Your bird will love it when you talk to him. He will enjoy imitating sounds. He will repeat these sounds to himself because they feel good inside his head. He will play with the fun sounds. Then, one day, he'll surprise you with words.
Remember to be patient. Talking is an acquired trait, one which you have had years and years to master. Do not expect your your bird to learn to speak overnight and do not punish him if he cannot learn to speak for whatever reason