Felix, the african grey signing to get a ride to the other room while sitting on top of an empty food bowl in the parrot room.

How Does a Parrot Really Talk?

How Does a Parrot Really Talk?

He shook his head vigorously, turned away sharply making a slight clicking sound. That last effort delivered in hopes if the first effort was somehow missed, the head turning and clicking would solidify his choice. No. Thank you. Be gone. Take it away. Why are you still here? These requests and questions beg to be pronounced loudly. Decorum and the lack of lips stop him.

Lack of lips is not the cause of our parrots being misunderstood. Lips, words, language skills don't add up to a hill of beans. Humans have lips and we talk. It's gotten our species nowhere in the balance of things. Why do we think our way of communication is superior when we aren't getting anything out of it ourselves? We're raised to think we are the top of the food and communication chain. Religion, society, neighborhood, childhood, whatever. We've got a plethora of absolutes supporting the stupid idea we are number one. We are not, we are full of number two.

Felix sits, one foot up now. I did not miss the meaning of his head vigorously shaking. I set the teacup down. Felix speaks in exclamation pointed body languages. I'm fluent. Which isn't to say I don't ignore what he's signing because obviously he needs me to be right. He doesn't. I'm full of number two.

I sit back into the couch, gather up Dante, a red-hot charcoal temperatured dog, to snuggle. He has no opinions or languages he cares to learn or use. The new episode of Discovery is about to start. Felix likes bilging streaming shows. He snacks efficiently on his table set between the couch and the recliner. Within reach of both his humans. In case he needs something. We all watch. He snacks and watches.

Felix starts with safflower. Pops open all his pistachios leaving a mess. Moves to favored pellets. Moves back to the mess of open pistachios to eat them. Moves to a pasta wheelie. Bites that, tosses that, bites a safflower tosses that, kicks another pistachio off the table, pushes a pasta wheelie off the table, then shuffle walks through the entire snack pile watching portions fall off as he does it. He knows exactly what he is doing. He watches dogs forage under his table. He stops in the middle of his mess. "Here."

We aren't fast enough. "HEREHERHERHERHEHREHREHREHRHE H E R E!" He wants that tea he shook off before. In the yellow cup he chose months before. Filled with the peach tea he chose before at the temperature that 45 seconds on HIGH attains in the microwave with the beeps he likes mimicking.

Until he doesn't.

Communicating is frustrating for the human, not the parrot. You don't get it the first time, they have the time to change tactics and try again. Buckle Up Buckaroo. Parrots do not suffer from Cognitive Dissonance. And they do not take the time to compartmentalize anything, because they don't take the time to rationalize stories to support their own internal story lines they don't tell themselves. Parrots parrot. They have one clear belief system. I am parrot, here me call. Parrots are not full of number two. And they are not interested in being number one. That's a human thing.

The happiest and healthiest parrots I have met are the parrots who live with humans that are gently honest with themselves. Be you. Let them be them. Meet them in the middle with a snack and warm tea. Have a minute together. Keep your eyes peeled and take in all their nuanced everything. Parrots are always communicating.

He's digesting now. Watching Season one episode four of Discovery while half asleep letting his body work on all that snacking. He's sitting, one foot up, the other balanced perfectly on the corner of the table allowing his tail to hang comfortably. It's the corner he uses when he is not quite done snacking, but needs to process room for more. He'll be up and shuffling around his snack mess in a few minutes. He'll want a drink first before he goes back for a second helping. He'll poop off the corner before he starts. I move the towel a bit on the floor. I check the tea temperature. Take a quick scan of what's left on the table. He'll need one more wheelie. It's there. Waiting.

I know this because he knows I know this because he chose that specific corner of his snack attack table to tell me. Clearly stated, one foot up.
Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


  • I could not love this more!
    Thank you Kathy for the fantastic article.

    I live alone (as a human) with the 5 red-butts, 1 maroon-butt, 1 bundle of green feathers, and one canine kids. Being home with them most of the time has given me the time to really learn what they are telling me with both words, noises, and body language. Each, while looking so similar to the others, has their own entirely unique ways of communicating their wants, don’t wants, needs, moods, etc… They are straightforward as can be.

    I would say they are honest but then there is my Birdie Alice who I am pretty sure is telling tall tales when I ask who pooped on her freshly cleaned cage and she says it was my mother who lives 1100 miles away. She also blames the canine sister for being the one who chews things. Things like the TOP of the door frame, etc…

    Maybe I am just a crazy, old, bird lady but I have grown to prefer all forms of communication with my unique little family over communication with other humans any day.

    Jan Granai on

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