Do Parrots Know What They are Saying?

Although, most parrot keepers tend to believe that their birds understand what they say.

However, it may just be a parrot mimicking what he usually hears.

So, a parrot may not know what it’s speaking.

That said, it is still possible to train a parrot to not only vocalize its needs but also express its emotions.

They can become your best friend through an emotional level!

I find that pretty awesome!

In this article you’re going to discover

  • Do parrots understand human language?
  • Can parrots have conversations?
  • What do parrots talk about to other birds
  • Why do parrots talk to humans
  • Do parrots really repeat what you say
  • Do parrots have memory
  • Can a parrot understand it’s name
  • Can parrots communicate by body language

In short if you want to learn all about your parrot and how they communicate then you’re going to love this article

Sound interesting?


Let’s get started!  

Do Parrots Understand Human Language?

Technically, they don’t.

However, they tend to identify patterns and so, they develop contextual meanings with certain actions and sounds. 

For instance, if every time you walk in through a door and greet your bird with “How you doin’?”

Then your bird will start welcoming you with the same phrase.

Not because it’s asking about your well-being, but because it’s some sort of norm.

More appropriately, 

Your bird is mimicking you and trying to socialize with you, on your terms.

But how do we know birds relate to contextual meanings? 

It because of a case study:

Cosmo- An African Grey Parrot

Cosmo is a trained African Grey that can talk with correct grammar.

She was studied using 278 commands, rather than mere questionnaires. 

Cosmo’s responses were coherent with social settings.

Interestingly, in the presence of its owner, Cosmo talked about playing and food.

However, in the absence of its breeder, Cosmo frequently used phrases linked to locations such as, “I’m here” and “Where are you?”. 

Although these responses show how parrots stay in context, these also indicate that parrots may know what they are saying.

So, honestly,

We are still unable to fully grasp how much a parrot can understand when it bonds with humans. 

But Cosmo may be a rare case. 

And so, most parrots are assumed to be only imitating what they hear. 

Can Parrots Have Conversations?

Unfortunately, most parrots cannot.

Nonetheless, parrots are intelligent beings.

They perceive the social situation and so, their responses may be attuned to proper norms. 

Consequently, most talking parrots can fool anyone into believing that they can understand human conversations.

Even though, it’s just impersonating at the right time and spot.

And yet, it is not entirely impossible to have a conversation with a parrot. 

This comes from the case study:

Alex – A Lab Bred African Grey Parrot

Alex is often quoted as a parrot with the ability to converse. 

He was trained to understand language.

By the end of his 30-year life, he could distinguish between colors, tastes, name at least 50 objects, and even count to digit 8.

However, Alex was raised in a lab and so, interactions with a pet bird may differ greatly from Alex’s. 

Nonetheless, Alex represents a hope that with care and training, we can all teach our birds to talk. 

But why is vocalization ability even evolved in parrots? 

What Do Parrots Talk About To Other Birds?

Parrots live in flocks and communicate for the following reasons:

1. Safety Purposes

Within a flock, parrots on the peripheries stand guard for others.

Since, parrots. are usually hidden underneath the foliage, therefore, parrots can only warn other parrots through voicing the approaching danger.

2. Food Resources

Parrots from a flock share food and water locations with each other.

Therefore, a bird in a flock has a better chance of surviving in the wild, compared to a solo bird.

3. Identification

Parrots produce high-pitched tones specific to their flock.

And so, they recognize each other even from afar. 

A bird can return to its flock anytime using those high-pitched contact calls.

4. Attracting Mates

Vocal prowess is a desirable trait among parrots. A parrot may simply pick bits from its surroundings to impress a partner. 

That explains why members of a flock would pick few words of human language from an escaped pet.


Why Do Parrots Talk To Humans?

Mainly because of peer pressure.

You see, birds live in flocks where they divide responsibilities, thereby surviving better.

However, chances of surviving alone are low to none.

And so,

In the wild, a solo parrot is considered a dead bird flying.

Therefore, a captive parrot would try its best to find a new flock. 

However, for a pet bird, the options for socializing are quite limited.

Besides, a pet bird is entirely dependent on its human keeper for nearly all its needs.

Which is why..

A parrot tries to mirror its owner, just to find social cues to communicate and survive better.

Since a single bird will only have a human to rely on, it will speak faster and clearer than a group of birds living in a cage. 

But parrots seem to copy all kinds of sounds

Which leads me to my next point..

Do Parrots Really Repeat What You Say?

They do, but mostly when it fits the context.

Since most birds have brains specialized for vocal learning.

Therefore, they can imitate all the sounds they hear.

Consequently, the songbirds will pick a tune and sing along a human. 

So, Katniss Everdeen signaling Rue with bird tunes in Hunger Games was no myth.

But parrots have even more specialized brains.

They tend to pick notes associated with social situations and use that as “contact call”.

For example, the beep of a microwave means a human will rush to it.

So, a parrot will imitate that beep sound whenever it wants to call its human owner.

This is also why they learn to say “Hello” or “Goodbye”, whenever you pick your calls around them.

As parrots pay special attention to words said with vigor or emotion.

Therefore, they are prone to profanity. 

It’s best never to curse around them. 

Also, I suggest you don’t flirt with your bird or even use phrases that may sound playful. 

Cause a parrot will leave no chance to embarrass you, even with a simple phrase such as, “Who is the pretty boy?”

And if they do pick these words up that may embarrass you, it’ll be very difficult to get them to stop saying it! 

Now you may be thinking..

Do Parrots Have Memory?

They most certainly do. 

And anything they say is unlikely to go away.

You see, a parrot has an entire brain section reserved only to memorize and imitate sounds.

So, parrots can be trained to remember hundreds of words. 

One such example is Einstein- an African Grey Parrot that currently lives in Knoxville Zoo, Tennessee.

Einstein has the brain ability of a 5-year-old human.

Unfortunately, this also means a parrot will never forget any abuse it has suffered.

So, I insist that you always be kind and patient with your parrot

As a parrot parent, you may be interested in knowing,

Can a Parrot Understand its Name?

Most likely your bird responds to its name simply because it’s trained to do so.

That said, parrots have names in their own language.


A parrot within a flock is always called with a specific pitch or beep.

Also, that specific noise appears first with the birth of a bird.


Perhaps, a parrot does understand its name and even its human owner’s name.

But, speaking is not the only way to communicate.

What about body language?

Can parrots communicate through body language?

Let’s find out..

Can Parrots Communicate By Body Language?

They do.

A parrot will try its best to communicate especially if it loves you.

However, as all the birds are unique, therefore, it may take some time for you to understand your parrot.

But in time it will show you what it wants in its own way.

Some parrots will try to bite strangers just to get your attention, and some will try to sit in corners to show their aggression.

Some may cuddle to express love, while some will prefer beaking you.

So, it’s just how well you are acquainted with each other.

Final Words

Parrots may not necessarily understand what they are saying.

It’s because they mimic to socialize.

However, they imitate sounds with correct social situations and can fool anyone.

But a parrot can be trained to not only talk but also express its emotions.

Even if your bird doesn’t talk, it will try to communicate with you through its actions.

Related article – How do parrots talk without lips?