We should understand our birds’ wild nature, using that understanding to help the birds and us adapt to each other.
Sometimes we must learn to think and talk parrot to further the trust relationship between us. Talking parrot includes
the use and understanding of one of the most important parts of a wild parrot’s life — contact calls.
Contact calls back and forth between parrot and human help reassure the parrot that its human is within earshot,
as would be a wild flock member. They give parrots a way to let us know when they want our immediate attention.
Contact calls also serve to reassure our parrots that, although we may be leaving them behind as we go off to work
or to the grocery store, we will come back to them. Understanding and using contact calls is a good way to avoid
behavioral problems, like screaming. Often screaming behaviors develop from natural, instinctive contact calls that
go unanswered by the parrot’s human flock members and escalate into screams when the frustrated parrot cannot
make its needs understood with simple contact calls.
A good reason to initiate and return contact calls with our parrots. I have no doubt that a consistently used contact
call between any parrot and owner might make the difference between a parrot lost forever and a bird found and
returned safely home. Most parrots don’t have the wild abandonment to adventure that lovebirds had and would
return quickly to their human flock if they had a contact call to home in on. Of course, no one likes to think of
anything like that happening, but accidents happen — even when we do our best to anticipate and prevent them.
Two Kinds Of Calls — Ours And The Parrot’s Natural Call
Do our parrots actually understand what we say to them and what they say to us?
They probably do — to some degree. Much like a young child learning to associate words with actions, parrots do
associate some of our speech with actions.
However, is the parrot who says "Bye-bye" when you leave or "Hello" when you come home actually greeting you
with words he understands the meaning of, or repeating your contact calls because you always say "Bye-bye"
when you leave? It is probably a combination of both. Certainly, the parrot will start associating "Bye-bye" with leaving.
However, if he really understands the word’s meaning he will start saying it when he wants you to leave,
not just as a reassurance contact call that says everything’s all right and you will be
The results of an Internet survey done on a mailing list were very interesting, regarding parrots’ ability
to adopt our human contact calls as their own.
Here is a bird that apparently waits for its human to initiate the call and uses its own call if it doesn’t hear
the person’s "See you later" call. Going to the office is obviously different to the person, who changes the
contact call to "Bye-bye" when leaving the house.
The parrot recognizes the different call and associates it
with leaving the house, so uses the same call as does her human when the person leaves the house.
The following is an instance of a bird that may have associated a contact call used between humans as
a call that it should also use with its human flock.
Sometimes, the human learns to speak the bird’s language, especially if it’s a parrot species that does not
imitate human language as well as other species. Or, sometimes it’s fun to simply talk parrot talk.
Apparently different people merit different contact calls, each suited to that particular person.
If you say something enough times in conjunction with a specific action, it will become communication for that action.
Imitating Telephones and Microwave Ovens -
Parrots are very observant and often notice what sounds their humans respond to. In the parrot’s mind if a
telephone contact calls to a person and the person goes to (answers) the phone, the parrot can also use the
telephone sound to call its humans. Many African greys are adept at imitating telephone rings — so much
so that their people often answer the phone before realizing it was their bird making the sound.
Yes, parrots do have a sense of humor and this one may enjoy sending its human to the phone, over and
over. Sometimes we try to trick our parrots, but we must be pretty wily to put something over on them.
Even watching a pet dog come when called is often enough to make your parrot treat you like the dog
to get a little more attention out of you.
Often, what we may think of as mindless screaming or insecurity is no more than the parrot being a
parrot. They live in flocks, where there is safety in numbers. A parrot alone may soon find itself
someone’s lunch, so parrots want to know where their flocks are at all times. They want to be
reassured that everything is all right, so they use a contact call.
Parrots need attention, because
they are very social animals. They are also very intelligent animals and quickly perceive that we run
to the telephone when it contact calls. So, they become the telephone contact call, hoping we will
run to them. I firmly believe that there is a reason for most of the sounds our parrots imitate.
If I cough, my parrot does her loud sneeze imitation — because sneezes and cough often go
together and I believe this is her way to let me know that we are part of the same flock.