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Teaching Your Cockatiel to Talk

Cockatiels can talk if the time has been invested into teaching them to do so.  A talking Cockatiel sounds as if it is whistling syllables--they are somewhat understandable.   Most talking Cockatiels are those that have been incorporated into a household and are stimulated by constant interaction and praise.  Though they will never have the clarity of parrots their size, such as Indian Ringnecks or Quaker Parakeets, they can still learn to talk.

Buying a parrot for its talking ability is not advised.  Sadly, many people purchase parrots in hopes that it will develop a large vocabulary and be great at talking.  When the parrot does not meet their expectations they quickly move the bird to a backroom or give him away.  This can sometimes mean moving from house to house.  A parrot’s ability to talk should not be the defining factor in selecting a parrot.  Rather, the traits the particular specie has should be.

Interacting with your cockatiel

Interaction is an important factor if you want a talking Cockatiel.  Before the internet, owners were advised to play tapes that repeated phrases over and over.  This method works; however, parrots taught this way quickly lost interest and only learned a few words.  Another age old method was covering the cage in a dark room and repeating phrases over and over.  Through more research and education, we learned that parrots are not machines.  They thrive on human interaction and will do anything to attain their owner’s attention.

A Cockatiel cannot be expected to talk if the bird is only limited to its cage.  The bird has nothing to identify with and will only resort to their natural calls.  Human interaction is a must.

Incorporating time with your cockatiel

Time should be spent teaching the bird to talk.   Actives that include the parrot and you are ideal.  For example, taking your bird to a mirror and repeating “pretty bird,” is a good start.  The bird will enjoy looking at his refection, benefit from having you around, and take pleasure in listening to you.  All this stimulation will hopefully lead to the parrot repeating “pretty bird.”  Just continue this exercise until your parrot starts to talk.

Another example of promoting talking is to take the bird with you during dinner.  While the bird is eating, repeat something like, “Is that yummy?”  Keep repeating your phrases and be animated—Cockatiels enjoy this. 

Keep your exercises short and interesting.  The more you practice with your Cockatiel, the more he’s going to pick up speech.  If you find your bird will not pickup certain phrases or words, move on to something new.   Try various combinations or different tones with your voice.  The best talkers are from owners who constantly stimulate their bird’s brain.

Increasing Your Changes of your cockatiel talking

If you want a talking Cockatiel then starting with a handfed baby will help.  A Cockatiel who is just weaned is a perfect candidate.  After weaning they are very impressionable to human behaviors—speech included.  This is such an important window for development of speech.  Parrots that have large vocabularies are those that were simulated as early as possible to human speech.   A wolf whistle is perfect for introducing them to mimicking us. 

Another factor is the sex of the Cockatiel.  Males talk with much more clarity than females.  Why is this?  Males use vocal chirps and calls during courting to stimulate their mates; they are vocally designed to talk.  Females can talk; however, their voices are usually not be as clear as the male’s. 

If your Cockatiel is going to talk, most start around four to eight months, eight being the average.  Remember, older birds can learn to talk, but more time and patience is required.

parrot Cognition

Do they understand what they are saying? This answer is unknown but research done by Dr. Irene Pepperberg has yielded some fascinating results.  She is currently working with three African Greys, Alex, her star pupil, can answer simple questions and identify many objects.  Through her

research she has come to the conclusion that parrots do have the ability to label objects and use communication as a tool.  Most Cockatiels will pick up words or phrases that it believes are important to its relationship with you (interpersonal communication).




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