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Are Macaws Good Talkers?

Eva Sargent | May 19, 2008


The plethora of conflicting information about parrots extends to talking—macaws are very good talkers, or very poor talkers, or not as good as amazons or a little better than amazons.  Hopefully all this ambiguity in the literature and on the web reflects individual differences, rather than ignorance or arrogance or parrot speciesism.  In any case, they certainly speak macaw well.

I can tell you that I never cared whether Pyewacket spoke English or not.  It was way down on my rescue parrot wish-list, below liking me, not screaming too early in the morning, not biting, being able to be alone while I was at work, etc.  The first time I heard him talk was in the quarantine room at the rescue - he suddenly said "Hi" in a loud and lurid man's voice, the kind of man who would say "Hi, little girl. Want some candy?" 

Once he got to my house, he started saying "Eva" all the time, with all kinds of inflections and intonations.  My name (which is pronounced with a short E) turns out to be a natural macaw vocalization, but it is hard to shake the impression that he is specifically calling me (and maybe he is).

Last week I was in the back of the house, far from his cage (that he lives mostly on top of - another story and challenge for another day), when I heard a woman's voice say "Hi Honey."  I crept into the hall and listened.  He was practicing talking, saying over and over "Is it good?  Mmmmm, good" with an occasional "Hi Turbo" thrown in.  This was a wonderful discovery, not the talking per se, but my sudden realization that his former owners, who had given him up at age 3 because they had (human) babies to care for, spent time with him and taught him things.  That night I gave him a bite of corn, and he said "Is it good? It's good," a slight variation on what I had heard earlier.  This was delivered loudly, very clearly and completely in context.  Even having heard him practicing earlier, I was floored and delighted.

I'm taking it slow with Pyewacket.  He doesn't like to step up off his cage, but I'm working on stick training him.  I don't force him onto my arm.  We play little head-swaying parrot games but I stop when he gets really wound up.  Sometimes he lets me scratch his head, but I only do it for a few seconds.  I let him try some carbonated water and he was full of joy - laughing and getting his head wet and drinking more and more.  I'm falling under his spell for sure, and I figured out why people want their parrots to talk, because it makes me laugh and laugh.  I'm tempted to get one of those parrot speech courses (you know the guy - he's discovered the secret and it's guaranteed to work in 15 minutes a day or your money back).  If nothing else it would give me a new game to play with my big blue friend.

Right now we are working on "I'm Pyewacket. Meow."  He's only had that name for a week, and this morning I heard him say "I Pyewacket."  So, if you ask me, macaws are good talkers, and even better squawkers. 

Over the weekend, Pyewacket met some dogs.  Tune in next time.