How Do Parrots Talk Without Lips?

Unlike humans, a bird does not have vocal cords.

Instead, it has a syrinx at the base of its windpipe or trachea.

So, a parrot orchestrates sound by changing the shape of its trachea via contracting the muscles within its neck.

Since a parrot can control airflow using its tongue alone, therefore, it does not need lips to talk.

In this articles you’re going to learn the following 

  • How can parrots speak without lips
  • Can parrots say “p”
  • How can parrots talk like humans
  • Why do all birds not talk
  • Why Do Primates Closer to Humans Not Talk?
  • Do parrots understand what they say
  • Which parrot species are the best at talking
  • How can I train my bird to talk

Lots to cover and trust me you’re going to love this article!

So if you’re curious and interested to understand how your parrot talks or maybe you want to train your birdie to talk then you’re going to love this article!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

We all see parrots talk

I mean but how do they talk?

They don’t even have lips

How Can Parrots Speak Without Lips?

It’s because they don’t need lips to create sound.

You see, a human’s voice box or larynx consists of vocal cords located above the trachea.

Muscles from the mouth and neck region along with tongue and lips, allow humans to control the flow of air through vocal cords. 

Thereby, permitting humans to create a wide range of sounds.

However, a bird has its voice box or syrinx below the trachea.

A parrot can contract its neck muscles to change the shape of its trachea.

With tongue-forming vibrations, a parrot can control airflow through the fluid-filled syrinx. 

So, a parrot can speak without lips.

However, it may have difficulty generating certain sounds involving lips. 

Such as the letter P 

Let’s find out why and what other letters they have a hard time pronouncing

Can Parrots Say ‘P’?

They can, but they may find it relatively hard to pronounce.

Since a bird does not have lips, it may also find other bilabial consonants hard to pronounce i.e. ‘B’ and ‘M’.

For the same reason, parrots may be unable to enunciate labiodentals ‘T’ and ‘Th’.

However, breeders rarely complain about a parrot’s articulation. 

Scientists suggest that our brain may trick us to accept similar sounds as a clear word.

It is an evolutionary trait that allows us to find meaning in everything.

Regardless, if properly trained, parrots can use nearly all sounds. 

But, if parrots don’t have lips, then,

How Can Parrots Talk Like Humans?

It’s because parrots are vocal learners.

Normally, parrots live in flocks to survive better.

However, for a captive bird, life can be quite lonely and so, they try their best to fit in.

But humans don’t understand parrot cues and a parrot doesn’t really know the human language. 

And so, a parrot imitates all those sounds and gestures, that it deems important to that human.

A parrot can mimic human language only because it has a section of its brain reserved for mimicking sounds.

But then…

Why Do All Birds Not Talk?

Well, about half the birds can sing or hum.

These songbirds have a portion of the brain called “the song system”, which allows these birds to reproduce melodies and rhythms. 

In most birds, this song system has a shell with an inner core.

However, only parrots have an additional “outer shell” around the song system.

This outer shell allows the parrots to memorize and reciprocate a wide assortment of sounds, even human language.

And so, only a few birds can talk.

But then,

Why Do Primates Closer to Humans Not Talk?

It’s because they do have the vocal cords and larynx, but they lack enough brain wiring to regulate vocal tract muscles.

Besides, birds represent a completely different voice system than primates. 

So, a bird adapting to speak is not comparable to a primate.

You may wonder,

Do Parrots Understand What They Say?

Parrots may not know what they are saying, however, they have the ability to understand the context.

In most cases, parrots are only repeating what they usually hear in the same social setting. 

For instance, Your parrot may say ‘Hello’ whenever you come to pick up the dial, cause it’s what you always say.

Your parrot may even ask, “how are you?” if that’s what you say whenever you approach him.

Your parrot may even develop a sense to ask for food if that’s what you give him whenever he says he is hungry.

Some parrots even produce sounds of a motor car or a doorbell, when they see they see guests coming over.

Their responses can be so well-times that most parrot owners tend to assume, that parrots understand whatever they speak.

I actually have another article where I go into much detail about parrots and if they know what they are saying

Check it out >> Do parrots know what they are saying?

If you are a prospective Parrot owner, or you’re thinking about adopting one then you may want to know..

Which Parrot Species Is The Best At Talking?

Of course, some parrots speak both clearly and more than usual.

These include:

1. African Grey Parrots

With their ability to perceive and speak like an eight-year-old,

African Greys are probably the best talking parrots. 

Besides, most of what we know about talking parrots comes from African Greys.

One such bird named Alex was bred in Pepperberg lab in Germany.

By the end of his life, Alex could not only converse, vocalize its needs but also could distinguish colors and objects.

Pretty awesome right?

2. Amazon Parrots

If African Grey is not the choice of your bird, Amazons are the second best.

If trained properly, they can talk like a five-year-old and can even memorize up to a hundred words. 

Interestingly, Amazon parrots can even pick local dialects and may sound even clearer than African Greys.

I suggest Yellow-Naped Amazons as they not only chat but also sing along human songs.

3. Budgerigars

Budgerigars are the most common captive parrots. 

Although being small, a budgie can talk in a low and hoarse voice.

However, training a budgie to speak maybe a bit more challenging than Amazons or African Greys.

That said, Puck- A budgie, holds the Guinness world record of most extensive vocabulary among the birds.

If you want a parakeet, that is easy to train, I recommend an Indian Ringneck parakeet.

What Other Birds Besides Parrot Can Speak?

Of course, parrots excel other birds in their speaking skills. 

However, some other birds can also talk.

These include:

  1. Corvids
  2. Indian Mynah
  3. Lyrebirds
  4. Starlings
  5. Mockingbirds
  6. Australian Magpie

Aside from these, some songbirds can pick up human tunes or doorbells.

Okay so you’re probably all excited about how parrots can talk!

So if you’re wondering how you could train your birdie

Then carry on reading…

How Can I Train My Bird To Talk?

You can train your parrot for anything with patience and repetition.

If you are training your bird to speak, you may follow these steps:

  1. Firstly, build trust. Your bird needs to be comfortable around you. So, always be polite and genial with your bird. 
  2. Give your bird a name and stick with it. If you change the pet’s name, it will only confuse it.
  3. Start with words like “Hello”, “Bye”, or “take care”.
  4. Don’t force your bird to speak, however, whenever your bird responds give him a treat as a reward for positive reinforcement.
  5. Gradually, shift from treats to gentle strokes. Otherwise, you will only exhaust your bird with treats.
  6. Use the same pitch and tone, when introducing a new word. Repeat the word for many days, until the bird starts to say it clearly.
  7. As birds are vocal learners, make sure to be always clear. Any deviation in your enunciation may produce the same vocal defects in your bird’s speech. 
  8. Try labeling things with your voice, say for example, “We are going for a walk to the park.” And then take him there.
  9. If you are two persons at home, your bird will learn to speak faster if both of you repeat the same words to each other.

Word of Caution

A parrot will remember all those words you say with vigor or emotion.

And so, parrots learn profanity quite easily.

Even if that sounds funny now, it won’t be in the long run.

Also,

If you are teaching curse words to your parrot, you are abusing its rights.

The rule of thumb is to not teach your bird anything that may embarrass you especially in front of guests or small children

Furthermore, if you are training your parrot to talk, there is a slight chance that he may not learn at all.

It’s because some parrots just never speak. 

Wrapping Up

A bird can talk without lips because its sound system does not need to use them.

A parrot can change the shape of its windpipe and then use its tongue to speak.

However, it may find difficult to pronounce bilabial words such as “P”.

With patience and care, you can gradually teach your parrot to talk.

So when you come home from work be prepared for your parrot to welcome you

Or maybe you could just have a full conversation with your parrot

That’s awesome!