Cover image source: Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash
Some birds are known and famed for their uncanny ability to mimic and speak as we humans do. Remember that viral clip of Einstein the genius African grey parrot and her hilarious exchange with the zoo’s head trainer? Einstein can make at least 200 sounds, including words, and here’s how you can try training your pet birdy to be the next Einstein:
First, it is important to note that not all birds can mimic human words or sounds. A select few species are better skilled at pronouncing and retaining words such as the African Grey, Budgies, Parakeets, and Cockatiels, but even those who can may not wish to do so.
Source: Michael Clarke on Unsplash
As with all training methods, patience, trust, a strong bond, and positive association are fundamentals. Birds cannot be forced to mimic or learn human words, so before training commences, your feathered friend needs to trust you, be comfortable around you, and essentially see you as a member of the flock. With mutual trust and a strong bond, birds will naturally have the desire to communicate with you — the perfect juncture for training.
To encourage mimicry from your bird, introduce simple words or phrases that are about a-syllable-or-two long such as “hello”, “goodbye”, or even its name. The use of uncomplicated words eases them into learning to speak.
Once the word has been decided on, repeat it to your pet throughout the day in an upbeat and positive tone! It is crucial that your tone and articulation remains unchanged until the bird has caught on. You may also choose to include a reward each time you mention the chosen phrase to establish a positive association.
Birds master mimicry through constant repetition. They tend to absorb sounds long before they decide to vocalise it, hence it is crucial that your bird is consistently exposed to those words until it imitates them.
Although it is best to be physically present and personally repeat the chosen words to your bird, equipment such as audio players or recorders may also be used. However, nothing works better than a personal training session, so these tools should only be used when necessary and not as your replacement.
Recognise that every bird moves at its own pace with some exhibiting results in days while others may take months or years before speaking. Instead of rushing or forcing your feathered friend to repeat after you, grant it the time and space to learn and grow.
If you have already introduced a reward system, practice it regularly throughout the training period. Otherwise, offer your feathered friend a reward each time it mimics you! Start small with treats every time you say the word to first establish a link between the word and reward. If you’re worried about your pet’s weight or upsetting its digestive system, there are plenty of healthy bird treats available in both physical retail and online pet stores in Singapore. You may also reduce the amount of its usual feed accordingly.
Your avian pal will soon repeat that word in hopes of being rewarded. Subsequently, reward your pet only when its speech comes close to the actual word. Over time, your feathered friend may repeat these words without prompting in hopes of a treat.
Regardless of the results or time taken, patience and positivity are essential when it comes to training your pet.
Source: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
When it comes to training pets, expectations are inevitable. However, it is important to make a conscious effort to manage those expectations in order to avoid disappointments or frustrations.
Keep in mind that your bird will not exhibit instantaneous results and while there may be various recommended training guides to adhere to, you may still need to experiment with a routine before settling on one that best suits you and your avian friend — a process which may eat up considerable time.
In addition to deciding on a routine, it is also necessary to plan for regular breaks. While it can be exciting to hear your bird speak, trying to speed up the process by overworking or overloading your bird is not the secret to getting there and may backfire instead.
At the same time, be prepared for your bird to mimic other sounds or words! As it learns from repetition, it may also choose to imitate sounds or even undesirable words (whoops) that it hears on a regular basis. However, don’t fret. If your feathered friend does repeat these sounds or words, do not yell or spritz water at it. Instead, discourage such behaviour by ignoring it or leaving the room!