Did you recently get a bird and want to train it to talk or sing? Maybe you have an older bird and want to teach them something new. Talking and singing is a huge part of natural and instinctual bonding. It takes a lot of skill and patience to have your bird mimic you, and so we’ve outlined a guide below on simple and effective tips for training your bird to talk and sing.
Not all Birds like to Sing and Talk
Keep in mind that all birds are different! Your bird may talk like crazy or it might not. Your bird may sing like a pop star or it might not. Some birds known for talking only sing and some birds known for singing might talk. Some can talk and sing but will never mimic what you say to them.
For example, my male cockatiel cannot sing to save his life (probably because I can’t whistle), but he will easily repeat human phrases – even if they don’t sound like it to a normal listener. You can see this in the video to the left where he belts out his favorite phrase “who’s a big fat baby” over and over again.
It’s all about the specific bird – you will only know which your bird is after spending some time bonding with them and trying to teach them. Never get mad at your bird for not learning to talk or sing. Never yell at them, hurt them, or get rid of them because they choose to do something differently. It’s never their fault and it’s not your fault either.
Choosing a few Choice Phrases/Songs
It is recommended that you begin with one phrase that is two syllables long. Their first word should probably be their name (it is also recommended that their name be two syllables for easy learning). Maxwell, Twinkle, Buddy, Ana… you get the idea.
Start by repeating their name several times a day. It may take several weeks before they associate human speech as a form of communication. This is around the time you’ll gauge whether your bird is a mimicker or not by their willingness to repeat their name.
Once they have mastered their name, pick a very basic phrase that is easy for them to pronounce. I’ve noticed that parrots have a common difficulty with the letters F, S, V, and Z as well as certain combos of letters like “TH” sound. Anything akin to a “sthfsssss” or “vvthssss” sound phonetically is hard without lips or teeth to help you.
Good starter words and phrases are “hello” and “bye-bye” as well as “how are you” and “whatcha doin” (easier to say than “what are you doing”). If your bird is a true mimicker and has begun to understand that human speech is a way to communicate, then it shouldn’t take long to pick up.
From here, you can move to some complicated phrases if you like. Keep in mind that some birds will get set in their ways and only keep a few select phrases and ignore further teaching. Some smarter and more adventurous birds may start to mash phrases together to make whole new phrases.
The first and easiest “tune” you can teach your bird is the wolf whistle. This is a basic two-note tune that is easy for song birds to pick up in very little time. It’s a good starting point for your bird and an easy way for you to tell if your song bird will actually learn songs directly from you.
From here, I recommend that you pick one basic song to master and cut the song up into manageable bites for your bird. Songs are made of verses, and you can use that to your advantage by chopping them into bits your bird can learn easily – after one verse is mastered, then start teaching the next verse.
For example, you can take the Happy Birthday song and cut it up into four manageable verses at the end of each sentence. The Andy Griffith theme song can be cut into five or six verses (where the whistle stops for a few beats).
Good starter songs include Happy Birthday, If you’re Happy and you Know It, the Andy Griffith theme, When the Saints come Marching In, and the Adam’s Family theme. Make sure you are teaching them only one song at a time so that the results are more clear, concise, and accurate.
Once you have properly taught each verse to your bird, you can start putting them together into a coherent song. Since they already mastered the verses bit by bit, mashing them together will be easy work for your bird.
Repetition and Patience is Essential
This isn’t going to be something they learn overnight. Those first attempts are going to take a long time to teach, because they don’t, at first, understand what is going on. Be patient, take your time, your bird has years to learn if they have to. Once they understand what is happening, training should become easier.
Repeating songs and phrases multiple times a day every single day is the only way your bird is going to learn as well. You can’t say something once and expect them to say it all the time. You have to work at it constantly. The more you say it or sing it, the better a chance your bird will pick up on it.
Maintain a Good Relationship with your Bird
A lot of birds won’t mimic someone they don’t like, because they have no attachment. Without a proper bond, your bird has no initiative to learn from you because it just simply doesn’t care.
You have to have a good bond with your bird for them to see you as part of their flock and worth mimicking. Spend time with your bird every day, talking to them, playing with them… I can guarantee that you’ll see faster and more accurate results if your bird thinks you are a good friend and not just something in the background.
Sit Back and Watch
Once your bird knows how to say or sing something, they’re going to be doing it a lot. Now you can sit back and watch them excitedly belt out their favorite tunes and phrases. You can keep adding on to their vocabulary and furthering that connection between you and your bird. The sky is the limit!
If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, go ahead and comment below!