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Do the macaws talk?

As the primary caregiver of our three blue-throated macaws, Miguel, Tulio and Altivo, I get asked many questions about these charismatic parrots. But the question I get asked daily is “Do they talk?” As far as I am aware, the three macaws have not yet learned to repeat any human words; however, they definitely possess the ability to!

Parrots, along with several other bird species, are known for being able to mimic sounds, words and even whole sentences with stunning accuracy. This amazing ability, while entertaining and endearing, does serve an important purpose for parrots in the wild. Being flock animals that rely on large numbers to stay safe from predators, an individual parrot’s ability to blend in with and be accepted by the group is very important for survival. However, many parrot species have “dialects” that vary between flocks based on where they live, even within the same country. It’s kind of like here in the United States. Someone from New York and someone from Atlanta may both speak English, but they will have different accents and may use different phrasing to describe things. By utilizing their amazing mimicry ability, parrots can copy a flock’s “dialect” or “accent” and this helps them to be accepted into the group.

So why do pet parrots copy human words, you ask? Because to them we are their flock! Though they may not fully understand what they are mimicking, parrots do understand that copying our sounds or “dialect” better ensures them a place within the family group. So, the next time you meet a parrot with a large vocabulary, remember that they’re just trying to fit in with us, their featherless flock mates! 
Katherine Biddle
Keeper II, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl