Many pet parrots can copy sounds, which is probably the most entertaining thing about them. There are a lot of animals that can learn to repeat phrases and tunes, and some talking parrots have amazing voices and memories. So, what about cockatiels, which are the second most popular type of pet parrot? Can they talk?
Find out how well cockatiels can talk and how to teach your own ‘tiel to say words and sing songs.
Can cockatiels talk?
In short Answer, yes, they can!
Yes, they can imitate sounds, but how well they do it and whether your cockatiel will learn to do it at all depend on a number of factors.
You’ll also need to remember that they aren’t African greys or budgies. Their voices are pretty raspy, and they won’t be able to say very long phrases. You can teach your cockatiel simple tunes and words, but how well it learns them will depend on:
- Gender. Naturally, male cockatiels are the ones that produce more intricate sounds. They do so as a flirting method to woo the ladies, which in turn vocalize less and mostly produce flock calls. As such, if any cockatiel is going to learn to speak, it’s going to be a male.
- Age. As with humans, cockatiels and other birds will pick anything up quicker when they’re still young. While older ‘tiels can learn to speak, it’ll be much easier to train a younger bird.
- Upbringing. A hand-raised cockatiel will be more accepting to training, as it’s more people-oriented and more likely to see you as a member of its flock. Again, it is possible to teach a cockatiel that wasn’t hand-raised to speak, but you’ll likely find it takes longer.
- You. Your own motivation and the amount of time you’re willing to spend with your bird obviously has a lot of influence on whether your cockatiel will learn to speak and whistle or not.
You need to keep in mind that this is a process: it won’t happen right away and some birds just never pick it up at all. Daily practice is a must, especially at first, and you can’t lose your patience.
How to teach a cockatiel to talk
If you’ve never taught a bird words or tunes before, the following tips should help. Put on your patience hat and start practicing with your ‘tiel(s)!
Before you start training your bird, make sure it is healthy and used to being around you.
Pick your phrases
If you want to teach your cockatiel a phrase or song, keep in mind that it needs to be short. They’re not good for long, hard-to-understand speeches.
You can say “hi-hi!” when you walk up to the cage and “bye-bye” when you leave. You can also say “hi bird,” “pretty bird,” or the cockatiel’s name. It’s easiest to say words with a high pitch.
If you want to sing a song, make sure it isn’t too hard. For example, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is just a few different notes that you can easily whistle to your bird or leave on repeat. Make sure it’s not too annoying, though, because you’ll hear it a lot. A bird can talk better than it can whistle, so it might learn tunes faster than words.
Tip: Remember that your cockatiel won’t be able to remember many different songs and phrases, so don’t confuse it too much! If you do it might stop saying some of them entirely or start creating its own remixes with its personal favorites.
Repetition is the only way to get your cockatiels to talk. And by repetition, I mean doing something over and over again until your head feels like it’s going to explode. To get your cockatiel used to your voice, you should talk and whistle to it whenever you’re near its cage.
Since your cockatiel is probably happy to see you, especially if you bring food and treats, it will learn to associate your voice and the phrases you chose with good times. This is called “positive association,” and it’s the best way to teach birds anything. When learning tricks, they won’t respond to punishment or bad things.
In addition to talking to your ‘tiel all day, every day, you should also take it out of its cage for 10–15 minute sessions of talking and training once or more than once a day. Just sit down, talk to the bird in a clear voice, and scratch its head. If it listens to even a little bit of what you say, give it a tasty treat right away. Then keep going.
If your bird doesn’t seem to be learning a certain phrase, it could be because it doesn’t like it or can’t say it. Try going with something simpler.
Things to try
Some people can get the bird to fly away by talking to it and gently moving it up and down or side to side while it’s sitting on their hand. In the same way, some cockatiels love to sing to something, even if it doesn’t always make sense.
Yours might love to sing to your foot, a piece of food, or a crumpled piece of paper. Or, you know, a piece of spinach on its head might help it get in the mood to sing. Just a few things to try!
Tip: You can record yourself saying your favorite phrases and play the recording to your bird throughout the day. There are also YouTube videos specifically for teaching parrots to talk. Do keep in mind that personal interaction is much more effective since it has that positive association aspect.
If you have any more questions about cockatiels talking or would like to share your own experiences with getting your bird(s) to talk, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! ?
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