Beside humans and other the hominids, birds are among the most “talkative” of creatures. Though no expert claims that birds can actually understand what they are saying, the illusion that they are really speaking directly to you can be quite powerful. Still, it takes some time, energy – and patience! – to train a bird in this behavior. In fact, some birds are far easier to mold than others. Here is a quick rundown on the ones that are most easily coached:
The yellow canary – One of the first birds to be domesticated for its vocal abilities, it is acceptable as a mimic – especially because of its affordability – but takes an enormous amount of energy to get it to learn more than a handful of words or phrases. By the way, this bird is named for the islands – from the Latin, canaris or “dog” islands where it is found – and not the other way around. In short, canaries are a great choice as pets for first-time bird lovers.
The Australian budgerigar – A much better choice for the burgeoning aviarist is the the budgie – known more familiarly as the parakeet in the United States. This relatively common bird is capable of learning more than a few words, phrases, melodic tunes and even other animal sounds. Their voice tends to be low and not always well defined. The males tend to make the best talkers and pairs will usually tend to remain mute other than their own chirps.
The Indian ringneck – These incredibly clever little birds can develop a quite large vocabulary of single words and also have the capacity to speak very clearly in complete sentences. The effect is simply uncanny except for the fact that they more often tend to speak in their own high-pitched bird voices rather than with a human tonality, although they do clearly carry the mood of the phrase. For entertainment purposes, these are easily the best choice for a bird enthusiast.
The hill myna – While not particularly pretty as avian species go, the coloring on these somewhat mundane looking birds can run from snow-white to pitch-black. In any event, every variety seems to evince the amazing capacity for mimicking human voices with a widely varied range of pitch and tonality… and it is nothing new. In fact, the mimicking ability of mynas has been well-known and exploited on the Indian subcontinent for at least 7,000 years.
The African gray – The gold standard of talking birds, one concentrated look into the eyes of an African gray will convince any aficionado of the intelligence of this magnificent bird. It is easily the smartest of the talking birds and also the most affectionate – albeit only for its owner. African grays are generally considered to relate to humans on an a level comparable to that of a human toddler – 3-4 years old. They are an education in themselves, will probably outlive you and will teach you a thing or two about life. Get one if you dare!