I got my first pet parakeet at age 17. I taught both of my birds, Baby and Marilyn, to speak and I'm happy to share how to do it.
Training Your Bird to Talk
Budgies (parakeets) are much like humans in that their personalities and skills will vary, but most can learn to say a few simple phrases. It can be difficult to teach them how to talk, but here are some anecdotal tips that have worked for me.
Tips on Teaching Your Pet to Speak
- Buy your parakeet when it is very young.
- Buy one bird. If you get two, they will bond with each other and not with you. Of course, if you are gone most of the time, your pet's loneliness can be helped by getting another bird, but don’t expect them to communicate with you.
- Encourage bonding right away by offering a hand and then a shoulder to sit upon.
- Repeat phrases consistently.
- Do not use a recording unless your purpose is only to hear them speak and not to teach them how to communicate. Communicative birds are much more interesting than birds that don't have a clue what they are saying.
- Associate words with triggers. My bird Marilyn worked off triggers. She would run back and forth on her perch and say, "Wanna come out!" when she wanted out of her cage. She would say, "Are you hungry?" when her dish was empty. She would repeat phrases to her friend in the mirror ("Zippity doo daaaa, sexy bird!") and get especially vocal in the mornings (she related to robins and whippoorwills).
- One last tip: If you want a friendly bird that you can show off to everyone, do not use offensive language around your bird. EVER.
My Parakeet Stories: Baby and Marilyn
In my opinion, budgies are the best kind of bird to make part of your family. Training your pet to talk is all about personality, bonding, and repetition.
Baby's First Word Was "Meow"
I received my first parakeet as a Christmas gift when I was 17 years old. He was just old enough to be on his own, so he bonded well and learned his first word very quickly: meow. I had a cat that wanted to "bond" with my bird, too. That is why I hung his cage from my ceiling—to keep the cat from "bonding."
Therefore, the cat would sit under the cage or right outside the window and meow for hours and hours. She would sit there, regardless of whether I put food in her dish. She would sit there in spite of being chased away dozens of times throughout the day. She would just sit there and "meow." I had to lock her in the bathroom when I took Baby out of his cage. I would repeat phrases and hold him to my cheek. I would carry him around on my shoulder and talk to him.
"Hello, Baby!" I would repeat.
"Meow,” was the response.
"Want a treat!" I would say, holding a piece of apple in front of him.
It took him one week to learn to meow. It took him five more weeks to say, "Hello Baby!" Why was that? My cat was a better trainer than I was, I suppose.
Within a year, Baby was the unfortunate victim of a pet sitter who did not have a clue what she was doing. I have to take some blame as I should not have placed the responsibility on someone who did not have experience or feel comfortable with birds.
Marilyn and Her Huge Vocabulary
It took seven more years before I felt confident enough to get another bird. We had thought "she" was a "he," and had purposely bought a male because we'd heard that males were the only ones that would speak. But this budgie was a young female, and—thankfully—what we had heard was wrong.
I carried her home in her little box and put her directly into the huge cage my husband had put together for her. By this time, we had three small children, and we all took part in bonding and training her to speak. Of course, the first phrase Marilyn (then called "Merlin") popped out was from my husband: "Sexy bird!" she would declare and then make kissing noises.
Years later, our budgie had a huge vocabulary, and not all of the words she learned came from us trying to teach her. She would surprise us at least once a week with a new phrase.
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"The timer went off!" she declared when the oven would buzz.
"Take a shower and brush your teeth!" she would remind the children when they came downstairs in the morning.
"Excuse me!" she would shout when someone belched.
She loved people who were afraid of birds. We kept her cage open most of the time, and when we had unexpected company, she absolutely refused to go inside. She would perch on heads and declare her love instead, and the more afraid they were, the more she loved them.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Jadee on May 24, 2020:
Wow your birds sound absolutely beautiful and intelligent! Bless, thank you for sharing! :-)
Ricky Allen on March 12, 2020:
I bought my Budgie 1 week ago, and I've already fallin in love with Petey. I've raised cockatiels love birds and Monk Keets in the past, and I've never rin across a bird as adorable as my little Petey Boy.
Sarah on July 31, 2019:
I don't know if i could teach my parakeet to talk because he is to noisy
keian on December 08, 2017:
I have 1 male and is vary stubern. what do I do?
joel on March 17, 2017:
I have two male birds which I see by the info on the computer , is a lost cause trying to teach then to speak.yet spmehow they both wolf whistle,which I did not teach then we have the birds about four years and I will not separate them .I have tried a million time to teach them a simple phrase to no use. is there any hope for them to speak??
atri on June 08, 2016:
when i study i read kinda loud , so now my budgie speaks Shakespeare and biology and chemistry phrases all mixed up
Astrid loves parakeets on June 01, 2016:
Is there any way I can teach both of my parakeets to talk, I am in highschool and I spend 6 hours five days a week away from them, they mostly socialize with each other and I'm not impatient with them about teaching them to communicate with me and my other family members and friends. My parakeets are both male and I honestly think they make a cute couple. Back to my main subject, I'm not that kind of person who is forcing them to talk but I can't talk to them because they're always focused on each other which I think is kind of cute.
Laura Amsel from Tucson, Arizona on July 21, 2013:
Oh, memories! Haha (: I remember Merlin/Marilyn. She must have thought I was not a bird lover, because every time I would come over, she'd spend the entire time landing on my head after being shooed off of my head. She was too funny, and yes, she did have a big vocabulary!
KathyL on April 04, 2012:
My parakeet just starting talking. He is young, we got him on Christmas. The reason he started to talk is because I also have a blue crown conure who says multiple things. Now the parakeet is saying everything the conure says. It is so cool.
Parker on January 20, 2012:
thx 4 the info im trying to get as much information as i can 4 both my f-male parakeets so I can kinda act like a show off to my friends. Ive had 1 parakeet for 4 years and had the other for 2 or 3 years i cant remember i learned that u dont really need to train them when u 1st get also and singing soft songs puts them at eas same with certain instruments and humming
Dorothy on December 21, 2011:
Omg I was laughing meow priceless I've just become a new budgie mum he's my first only had him a week now so please please any advice info feel free mine I'm sure will either say woof woof or squeak squeak being the dogs or guineapigs great story tho
Soul on December 19, 2011:
Hi... i have a female Budgie i got her as a gift i just wanted to know if she could talk, i have thought her when i say up she flies up and down then she comes back to her Ledge but she hasn't said a word as yet she must me over a month old please help...
Auntie D from California on October 19, 2011:
Enjoyed your story, especially about the "meow". I've had quite a few various parakeets and parrots and loved them all. You give very good advice. My older parakeet is shy. I rescued her and have had her about 5 years. She prefers staying in her cage and talks people words to me but bird chatter to her mirror.
noah on September 24, 2011:
that's pretty cool i have a budgie that is pretty young i think thanks for the information and its my second bird my first bird dyed it sucked i was sad
LightningStorm from The World on August 28, 2011:
This was really good, i love budgies and have two of my own. they also inspired me to make budgie hubs!
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on March 10, 2011:
I love the hub! I had a parakeet myself when I was younger, but he did not learn to talk. He did learn several tricks though.
mrk0529 on February 01, 2011:
My daughter took this bird home at the age of 6 weeks.Had no idea they could possibaly talk.He is a blue budgie and will not shut up. Repeats lines from tv and from the wife and myself.So far he has an unlimited vocab. and knows when and what to say.He is going on 3 years.I guess we are just lucky to have a talking bird.
Kylah on December 06, 2010:
I have two parakeets,I think the yellow one is a boy Tweety,and the blue one a girl Skipper,and i am trying to make them talk (at one time) but they only move their beeks and move their beeks up real wide!Why is this?
Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on August 02, 2010:
What a delight to read. I've never had a bird, and I've never wanted one, but I can appreciate the caution one must have about language choices around a bird. The expression, "Little pitchers have big ears" comes to mind.
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on July 27, 2010:
Malivan, I hope all goes well with the sparrow!
Malivan from Napoli, Italia on July 27, 2010:
Great story :). We had a couple of parakeets when I was growing up, they never talked but they did whistle the tune to the first Mario Brothers lol. 3 days ago my daughter brought home a newborn sparrow and now we're just trying to keep him alive.
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on July 24, 2010:
Good luck, Tammy :)
Tammy Winters from Oregon on July 24, 2010:
Wow...I read your story and all the comments. I am just thrilled to hear that Parakeets can talk. I had two parakeets. Their names were Sky and Summer. One was blue and the other was Green. I always talked to them but nothing happened except for annoying creeches. I still loved my birds a lot. I am thinking about getting another Parakeet. I just really want it to be able to talk. Wish me luck lol! Thanks for sharing your Parakeet article with us.
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on July 22, 2010:
Chapter, Once a parakeet learns to speak, it will likely continue to say the words, regardless of having a mate. Unfortunately, having a mate will compromise the bond between you and your parakeet.
Brookelyn, I'm not sure if a separate cage will make a difference. Having another bird in the room will distract your bird, but I don't know that it will keep him or her from learning to speak.
Brookelynn Hembree on July 20, 2010:
Can I teach it how to tak if it has a seprate cage from the other parakeet
Chapter from Indonesia on May 24, 2010:
I am not dare to separate a young from their friend. If the parakeet. If we join after it can speak, can it still speak
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on April 25, 2010:
MFB - I've had others tell me they didn't have luck with parakeets learning to talk, either. I suspect there are those who want to and those who don't care for it at all -- or maybe they were not babies when they were bought (?).
i scribble, I had not heard of talking elephants, but I watched one PAINT a bonafide picture on video! I believe it was on YouTube -- I'll have to look it up and post it.
Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on April 25, 2010:
SEO. nice to meet you. Great information. I will rate. Also I would like to invite you to stop and take a look at my hubs on birds I think you will like them. Looking forward to seeing you. Peace
i scribble on April 24, 2010:
Love this hub. I have a new passion for parrots & talking birds, altho I've never had one. Marilyn sounds delightful-like Alex. I suppose you are familiar with Alex the famous African Grey? Like the way you point out that they can communicate-not just mimic.
Check out my hubs on Alex and on Talking Elephants. Have you heard of talking elephants? Well, now you have.
Matthew Frederick Blowers III from United States on April 18, 2010:
I owned ten parakeets over the years of my childhood, and two canaries, and I talked to those parakeets till they were blue in the face...which most of them were anyway, but they just blew me off. I always wanted to teach one to sing so that I could harmonize with it on some of the hits back then , but all my singing simply put it to sleep. nevertheless I loved each and everyone of them. ~~~MFB III
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on March 02, 2010:
I absolutely loved your story. I had several birds when I was very young. Two were parakeets. They never talked and now I know why. But your hub brought back great memories.
Holly on February 18, 2010:
I loved this article, it brought back some fond memories. I miss my Laurie Lou bird so very much. She was an amazing parakeet, possibly a He lol but hey the name worked either way =)
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on February 18, 2010:
THAT is just adorable. :)
sheila b. on February 18, 2010:
I have a small parrot which was given to me. When I first got him, I had a cold and cough. After a while he began to greet me every morning with a quiet little cough when I took his cover off. It seems to be his name for me.
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on January 25, 2010:
Polly - I would definitely recommend a parakeet! As Nicko commented, the males are the ones known for talking the most. However, Marilyn was most likely a girl, as she had the pink cere. Whether or not she was "one of a kind" or possibly a hermaphrodite (might happen in the aviary world, I'm not sure, but now am going to look it up), I am not sure. Books recommend boys for talking... but then, "Baby" was a boy. ;)
Pollyannalana from US on January 25, 2010:
This is such a sweet story and I have always wanted a bird,I may just do it now.I always wanted love birds but a parakeet sounds like fun!
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on January 25, 2010:
Thanks, Nell. My husband and I are planning on moving in June. We will have an empty nest :( (my youngest is staying in this state to go to college). I'm thinking we'll get another budgie to help fill the void. Not the same... but still fun :).
Nell Rose from England on January 25, 2010:
Hiya, very funny how the first one meowed! And they are lovely birds. i loved this story. thanks Nell
nicko guzman from Los Angeles,CA on April 10, 2009:
Also,to know how old they are,the birds under 3-6 months of age have completely black eyes.At around 4-8 months,they have white irises surrounding a black spot.Once they become mid aged,they have silver-gray eyes.
nicko guzman from Los Angeles,CA on April 10, 2009:
After eight months of age,the cere in males become purple or blue.The females have pink to brown ceres.I used to have lutino(partial albino),these are hard to sex unless it lays eggs.Do not use courting as a sure fire.There are some homo birds.And I am not sure Marilyn was a girl.Females generally don't have large vocabularies.It could be possible.Great hub though.Thank you.
lilly on February 22, 2009:
i got a parakeet yesterday(sunday) my is very young. can u email me at firstname.lastname@example.org? well i named my parakeet haylee! my parakeet is light blue. how do i knw if it isa a boy or a girl?
D Swain on January 30, 2009:
Great tips on training your bird to talk. Some will never speak as well as others due to various reasons.
cayla on December 23, 2008:
i love it. it worked for my bird thank you soso much tata
Karla Domanski (author) from Cadillac, Michigan on November 28, 2008:
Thanks for the comments! It truly does depend on a parakeet's personality, too. Some are more talented than others and some are frankly, anti-social. Most people who were afraid of my birds had former bad experiences with pet birds. My first bird was shy. I was the only one who could handle him. My second thought all people were part of her flock. That had a lot to do with how fast she learned.
razvan_razvan from romania on November 28, 2008:
yeah, great hub, I remember my first parakeet, my mom brought it home when I was little, he was green with yellow and he was very small and cute :D. I put him in his cage and put him some food. THe first day he didn't eat almost anythind and didn't say a word but the next day he woke me up early in the morning with his screeches :D. I tried to teach him how to talk but there was no use. I mean parakeets are just not smart enough for this, they're not built to talk, just to make noises at 6 o'clock in the morning LOL. Anyway, he eventually flew away because I forgot his cage door opened :( my mom cried a lot that day. Then she bought another one, it was a girl, completely white with red eyes. She was very mean LOL, she was a bitch. I couldn't even show her a finger cause she would byte me :D. I thought she was lonely so I bought another parrot, a boy that looked almost exactly like the first one that flew away. We put him with the girl in the same cage and they appeared to like each other. Anyway, 2 weeks after I woke up one morning and I find the poor boy-parrot dead with his skull pierced. It was obvious, the bitch had killed his husband LOL. I really felt bad for him :(. Eventually the female flew away too the same way the first parrot escaped and that was my parrot history :D
I never got them to talk though LOL
evemurphy from Ottawa on November 28, 2008:
Wonderful hub...my budgie talks, but it is in a foreign language which I do not recognize! :)