Sherry is a native animal keeper who volunteers at a bird rescue centre in her town.
Parrots are amazing little creatures that have a lot of personality and affection to give. Some species are born with an excellent ability to learn and mimic words and non-speech noises. They may do this seeking to attract the attention of their owners or fellow parrots with sounds or simply because they are being funny.
Talking potential of a parrot depends on which species it is but all individuals belonging to a particular species may not be able to talk. However, proper training and good health status of these parrots almost guarantee that they will talk, if not today, then after a few months.
The vocabulary figures for individual species of parrots mentioned in this article are the maximum apparent numbers known to the author. Note that a parrot may learn more words throughout its lifetime.
1. African Grey
- Species: Psittacus erithacus (Congo African Grey)
P. erithacus subspecies timneh (Timneh African Grey)
- Vocabulary: 50-200 words
- Other names: Cameroon, Ghana
- Lifespan: 40-50 years
Several researchers have proved African grey to be the most superior avian species in terms of intelligence and talking ability. Einstein, Alex and Griffin are the renowned parrots who after demonstrating a set of cognitive and communicative abilities have convinced the world that parrots have emotional and mental states. Although these famous birds could speak around 200 words, according to some researchers African grey can speak 500 and even up to 1000 words with extensive training.
Two of the African Greys namely, the Congo and the Timneh are the best talkers of the parrot world. The Congo is larger and extremely popular while Timneh is an underrated smaller African grey and thus less expensive. However, both are equally good talkers.
If Timneh is to be compared with Congo, it exhibits a lesser learning ability but can start learning at a younger age.
Unlike other talking parrots, a young African Grey may not start talking until it is well more than a year old.
- They have excellent learning ability.
- Need high human interaction to be busy and intellectually stimulated.
- Early socialization is important otherwise they will be stressed by change.
- Lack of early socialization makes them prone to feather destruction and phobic behaviours.
- Species: Amazona auropalliata (Yellow-naped)
Amazona ocrocephala (Yellow Crowned Amazon)
Amazona oratrix (Double Yellow Headed)
Amazona aestiva (Blue Fronted Amazons)
Amazona amazonica (Orange-winged Amazon)
- Vocabulary: 100-120 words
- Lifespan: 70 years
Amazons are among the best talking parrots in the world. They are active, bossy and hardy birds. Many species of Amazons are moderately good talkers and whistlers who are especially good at speaking phrases. The speech of an Amazon is clearer than the African Grey parrots. Out of the talking Amazon species, the yellow-naped Amazon happens to be the best chatterer.
They particularly tend to become one-person birds and aggressive towards others. They like to bite everything and everyone they see but some owners of Amazons claim that their birds do not bite them at all. With some special efforts to make them people-friendly, Amazons are capable of becoming tamed birds.
- Not prone to developing problems from lack of owner's interaction.
- Prone to obesity if the owner is not careful about diet.
- Can be eminently loud thus unsuitable for close neighbours.
3. Quaker Parakeet
- Species: Myopsitta monachus
- Other names: Monk parakeet
- Vocabulary: 40-100 words
- Lifespan: 20-30 years
Monk parakeets are small to middle-sized, intelligent, funny and feisty birds that are a friend or badass to people depending on their interaction and/or mood. They are good talkers who will rant endlessly when in the mood. They like to be held in hands and stroked. They also make a great shoulder bird.
- Although they are small they are quite entertaining pets. It is like enjoying a cockatoo in the body of a parakeet.
- They can be loud and destructive although not as much as the larger Macaws and Cockatoos.
- They can become aggressive. Feather plucking is one problem when the bird gets aggressive.
- Prone to obesity and pancreatic problems.
4. Ring-Necked Parakeet
- Species: Psittacula krameri
- Other names: Indian ring-necked
- Vocabulary: 100-130 words
- Lifespan: 30 years
Ring-necked parrots one of the best talking parrots. They are hardy, intelligent but generally quiet and tame than most other talking parrots. They are active although not as much as cockatoos or amazons. The Ringneck parakeets are quite common and thus less expensive. With words, they are one of the best parrot species.
Easy available and hardy.
The birds can be noisy and require regular interaction with their owners.
- Species: Eclectus roratus
- Vocabulary: 100-120 words
- Lifespan: 30 years
Eclectus are medium-sized birds that are moderately good talkers. They are quite different from other parrots for exhibiting the most pronounced sexual dimorphism and males being more docile than females. In situations of breeding, females happen to traumatize males.
- The birds are usually less active and playful.
- Because they are noisy, not good for close neighborhood.
- Other names: Budgies, mistakenly called as Parakeets
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Vocabulary: 120-500 words
Budgies are the proud species to hold the Guinness world record for the largest vocabulary for a bird ever. Budgerigar named Puck could speak 1728 words before he died in 1994. The record for the largest vocabulary for a bird living is also held by a budgerigar named Oskar who can speak 148 words.
Budgies are small lively, interactive and enjoyable birds that can talk and develop excellent vocabularies. Although these little birds can learn a large number of words and song phrases, the drawback of it is their speaking voice which is too low and difficult to understand. A budgerigar that is cared for very well can live up to 18 years.
- Good for places with spatial restrictions.
- Perfect for beginner bird keepers
- If raised only on a seed diet, they live only for three to four years.
- They are prone to tumours.
- Species: Ara ararauna
- Lifespan: up to 50 years
- Vocabulary: 30-50 words
Macaws can be called lively and spectacular birds that are an intelligent, sociable, energetic, extremely loud, playful, sometimes destructive and most importantly not-for-everyone type of species. They have a moderate talking ability and a clear loud voice.
Macaws are hard to train but once they are trained they are cuddliest and the perfect family pet.
- Consistent and firm control can make them excellent pets.
- Not suitable for apartment living.
- Require to be hand-fed for four to five months.
- Require training and structured play to focus their energy.
Eolophus roseicapilla (Rose-breasted or Galah)
Cacatau sulphurea (Yellow-crested)
Cacatau tenuirostris (Long-billed corella)
- Lifespan: 40, 30, 50 respectively
- Vocabulary: 10-30 words
Cockatoos (males) are extremely intelligent and fabulous talkers. Although not all individuals can speak words, they are really noisy and always ready to give someone an earful. The clarity of their speech can be rated as average.
Imagine Donald Duck from Disney talking like adults—that is how cockatoos will talk the human language. They are intelligent and adorable but can be loud and messy sometimes. Aviculturists describe the behaviour of cockatoos as so mechanically inclined that they can escape from their cages, hence they have been previously named “escape artists”.
They have a loud voice and are known for their screaming and ranting behaviours. They enjoy physical contact and like to be close to their owners or companion birds. Owners need to have experience of owning birds and a good amount of knowledge to pet a Cockatoo. And for the right type of owner they can be a total delight.
- Cockatoos have all the three qualities of an excellent pet- it is friendly, intelligent and hardy.
- They are more prone to developing behavioural problems.
- For being the loudest of all the parrots, they are unsuitable for apartments and close neighbours.
9. Derbyan Parakeet
- Species: Psittacula derbiana
- Another name: Lord Derby’s parakeet
- Vocabulary: 20-40 words
- Lifespan: 20-30 years
The Derbyan parakeet is one of the rarest and largest parakeets. It is double the size of a ring-necked parakeet and the roughly same size as the Alexandrine parakeet. It has an average talking potential. Sexual dimorphism is apparent in adult parrots. Males have a reddish-orange beak whereas females have a black beak. The bird is lively but noisy and hard to train but the biting potential is not too much. The birds need a lot of socialization and interaction.
- Make minimal noise and demand little from the owners.
- Rare to acquire.
10. Hawk-headed Parrot
- Species: Deroptyus accipitrinus
- Other names: Red-fan
- Vocabulary: 10 words
- Lifespan: 30-35 years
Hawk-headed parrots are playful, cuddly, affectionate and active birds that show a low to moderate talking potential. They love to interact with their owners.
Only a few of the individuals speak and when they do the voice is soft and whisper-like. The little guys are sometimes really moody and mischievous.
- They are unique, attractive and lively.
- Frequent interaction with owners is needed.
- Can get really aggressive so they are definitely not good for beginner bird keepers.
Parrots are beautiful, vocal and expressive birds who are great entertainers. But unfortunately, they are the most abandoned pets by their owners. Many people want to keep parrots because of their exotic-ness and talking ability but fail to calculate the amount of time, affection and money they will need to put for the care of their talking feathery friends. To keep a parrot you need to be really obsessive about them and be willing to keep them even if they fail to talk or be a good pet
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Sherry Haynes
Liz Westwood from UK on September 09, 2020:
I remember as a child being fascinated by talking parrots. This is a detailed and interesting list.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 09, 2020:
Beautifully presented. Interesting.
Tsadjatko on September 08, 2020:
Fantastic article. Great information.
I can attest first hand to Timneh and Congo African Greys having had both!
And both of mine learned new things to say no matter how old they were. I had to sell my timneh because he would speak non stop for a couple hours every day and my wife said it was annoying to her so I sold him. Not long after that we divorced and I concluded it wasn’t his talking that bothered her but the fact he sounded just like me while she was having an affair.
He would never say a word if people were present with him in a room but when alone he’d blab and blab, from singing I’m Popeye the sailor man, pipe toot and all, to saying “Praise the Lord”
After I retired I was blessed to get a Congo Grey named Kabul. His original owner named him after Kabul Afghanistan where his son was stationed.
This parrot is a riot. I can teach him to say anything just by repeating it a lot everyday and after 4 or 5 days he’s got it down and seems excited when he does. I taught him to say “what’s your problem” and then when I answer him to say bla, bla, bla, bla, bla.
He got what’s your problem right away but the bla, bla took longer. The day he said it he pranced back and forth on his playpen perch saying bla, bla, bla, like 50 times! It was hilarious.
I put him on the front porch in the summer and whenever someone approaches the porch he says “ahoy there! shiver me timbers” then he’ll listen and say “where ya been.” He always says “see ya later” when anyone goes out the door and “hello,” or “where you been” when you come in.
When he sees my German Shepherd/ Wolf dog he says “we love our big boy” and of course “Good boy”
If I put up my fists at him he says “wanna fight” “c’mon” “c’mon” and raise his wings above his head and if I swing at him he’ll make swish sounds and bob and weave. Then he’ll cry “rope a dope”
I could go on and on. He loves to whistle the Andy Griffith theme song. What’s fun is trying to think of new things to teach him because he will inevitably mimic whatever we keep repeating.
I had a cockatoo in a separate cage next to him. As you know cockatoo’s are unbelievable screechers! One day my cockatoo got on my nerves and I said emphatically “AWE SHUT UP!”
Well that’s all it took. Often when emotion is attached to whatever you say the parrot will pick it right up. From that day on any time the cockatoo squawked, Kabul screamed “awe shut up”
Well that’s not the end of the story! I sold the Cockatoo and out of the blue Kabul started mimicking the cockatoo’s squawk exactly as loud as the Cockatoo (he never did this when the cockatoo was here) and then he’d tell himself to awe shut up. To this day if he hears any loud screech that reminds him of that squawk he’ll yell “awe, shut up”
Thank you for putting together all this information!