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Blue and Gold Macaws and African Grey Parrots: Can They Really Talk?

Updated on July 5, 2017

We all know parrots can "parrot," but can they REALLY communicate with humans?


Parrots, like the Blue and Gold Macaw to the left, and the African Grey Parrot below, are beautiful, social, and highly intelligent birds. Parrots are often trained by their owners to do tricks and are also well known for being able to talk. But are they really communicating, or just mimicking our words?

Read on. You may be surprised at what you hear!

This page includes information about Blue and Gold Macaws, African Grey Parrots, and the ability of parrots to actually communicate, in words, with humans.

Photo Credit: Blue and Gold Macaw - Beatice Murch

Photo Credit: African Grey Parrot - Ernst Vikne

What Do Blue and Yellow Macaw's Look Like? - Blue and Yellow Macaws are Very Colorful Birds!

Blue and Yellow Macaw
Blue and Yellow Macaw

This is a Blue And Yellow Macaw. Blue and Yellow Macaws have blue wings and backs, and yellow feathers on their bellies. There is a touch of green on their foreheads. Their faces, which are mostly bare skin, are white, with small black feathers creating lines near their eyes.

An interesting fact about Blue and Yellow Macaws is that when they get excited, they blush and their faces turn pink!

Photo Credit: Evildrjeff

Check out their beaks! - Think those beaks can talk?

blue and gold macaws
blue and gold macaws

Macaws are members of the parrot family. All parrots have curved beaks. Macaws use their curved beaks not only for cracking open nutshells, but also for climbing and hanging in trees!

Photo Credit: Lightfoot

A Blue and Yellow Macaw - Nassau
A Blue and Yellow Macaw - Nassau | Source

Where Do Blue and Gold Macaws Live?

Are Blue and Gold Macaws endangered?

Blue and Gold Macaws can be found in South America, Central America, and the southern tip of Florida....as well as in many zoos, pet stores, and homes. Although they are not at risk as much as many other types of macaws, Blue and Gold Macaws are on the endangered list in Trinidad. Part of the reason for the decline in macaws is the pet trade.

The Blue and Gold Macaw pictured here lives at Ardastra Zoo and Gardens in Nassau. He not only greets visitors as they enter the zoo, he also poses for pictures with them as they leave!

I can't help but wonder though. Is he sleeping on the job?


A Close Encounter With A Blue And Yellow Macaw! - in the Bahamas

Blue and Gold Macaw
Blue and Gold Macaw | Source

During the summer of 09, my family made a trip to the Bahamas. One of the exciting things we did while we were there was visit the Ardastra Zoo in Nassau. As we entered the zoo, we were greeted by a Blue and Gold Macaw sitting on a perch. (You saw his photo in the previous section.) As we prepared to leave, a zoo employee stopped us and asked us if we'd like to pose with his birds. Here you can see my daughter, Jessica, being kissed by a beautiful white bird, while the zoo's Blue and Gold Macaw perched on a zoo hat on her head!

Who Can Solve the Puzzle Faster? - A Blue and Gold Macaw? Or a human?

Think you could beat the bird's time in solving the puzzle? Others have tried!

Listen to what this lady says about parrots and language - Have you ever heard a bird sing (in English)? If not, you're in for a real treat!

While this isn't a Blue and Gold Macaw in this short video, it is a nice example of a parrot speaking in English. Oh, did I saw speaking? I meant singing!

Do all Blue and Gold Macaws do is "parrot?"

Or are parrots capable of something more?

If you listened to the youtube above, you'll have heard one opinion about parrots and language. "All they are capable of doing is mimicking the sounds they hear. They don't really know what they are saying."

That's what we've always been told, right?

But in recent years, some people are disagreeing. Keep reading. In the next section, we hear a very different opinion!

This Blue and Gold Macaw's mom claims her birds know what they're saying.

More than Mimicking?

Ray is a Blue and Green Macaw. His owner wrote: "Ray knows what he is saying and how to get what he wants by saying certain things - he only asks for potatoes when I am cooking potatoes. My Gray regularly says "I wanna come out" and then rattles the locks, or "How about some water?" when his water bottle is empty. They are extremely smart!"

Here's Ray in Action. - This video is long, so if you're short on time you might not want to watch the whole thing, but at least take a quick listen!

We can train a dog to "sit" or "beg" or "roll over" and he'll understand what we want him to do. It seems to me that "Ray" in the video above is trained in much the same way. He knows which response goes with which question - not that he always responds appropriately. He did remind me a bit of a human toddler who's mom is trying to get him to show off. Those of you with kids probably know what I"m taking about! The kid does something so cute when no one but you are watching, but let Grandma come over and suddenly your toddler acts clueless as to how to do or say it again!

Okay, most human toddlers don't do it to that extreme, nor does Ray in the video. Ray did come up with the correct response quite a few times! He demonstrated that he was doing more than just mouthing off words at random. But is that communicating any more than rolling over is when a human tells their dog to roll over? It's a form of communication. Sure. The human is communicating with the animal, and the animal is responding. But could there be anything more between humans and their feather, scale, or fur covered friends? Could the conversation ever become more of a two way affair?

Keep reading...

Meet Arielle: A Blue and Gold Macaw - An Example Of Interspecies Communication?

Arielle is a 19 year old Blue and Yellow Macaw. Her owner, Michael Dalton, has been studying her language abilities for 19 years, and is convinced that Arielle is able to communicate her thoughts by speaking. She isn't just parroting his sentences back to him. According to Michael Dalton, she's truly communicating. She's able to put words together in new sentences she's never heard before. She uses expressions at appropriate times to communicate whatever she'd like.

Arielle has a vocabulary of close to 6000 items and speaks over 4000 expressions. Michael Dalton says Arielle's development of language has been much like that of a young child's, and that she is even able to rhyme, make jokes, use pronouns correctly, know which form of the verb she needs to match the subject ("I am" vs "You are.") and express her emotions, thoughts and questions.

Here are a few examples: (More examples can be found on Dalton's website!)

  • Arielle uses a gesture when she wants to be picked up. If she's not picked up then, she requests "Come up" or "Want up" in English.
  • One day while out for a walk with her owner, she saw a puddle. She didn't know the word for puddle, so she said, "Wet."
  • Arielle asks, "Hurt?" if she wants to know if something might hurt her. She even raises her pitch at the end, just like a human asking a question.

A Book on Teaching Your Bird to Talk.

African Grey Parrots - Very intelligent and gentle birds

photo of African grey parrot by Michael Gwyther-Jones

Another highly intelligent bird is the African Grey Parrot. African Grey Parrots are medium sized parrots that live in the rainforests of West and Central Africa. There are two types of Africa Grey parrots: Congo African Greys and Timneh African Greys. Although captive parrots in general are known for their ability to make human sounds, African Grey Parrots have even been documented mimicking sounds from other species while in the wild!

Meet Alex: An African Grey Parrot Who Learned English

Dr. Irene Pepperberg's Work: 30 Years of Research

Alex was an African Grey Parrot. He was taught abou 150 words by researcher Dr. Irene Pepperberg. Alex wasn't just taught how to speak the words; he was taught their meaning. He also learned to identify colors and shapes and how to count up to 6 objects. He.was beginning to learn to read letter sounds, prior to his unexpected death in 2007.

Like Arielle, Alex was able to put words together to express new thoughts. One day, for example, he saw a banana and wanted some of it, but he didn't know the word for banana. His solution was to say, "Alex want yellow food."

Alex truly had a lot of personality, and he knew what he wanted! Sometimes Alex would get tired or bored and begin making mischief (purposely giving the wrong answers). If Dr. Pepperberg got annoyed at Alex, Alex would say, "I'm sorry" and would usually then cooperate. When he got tired of working, he'd say, "Wanna go back" (to his cage). Sometimes he'd request to be taken somewhere else. If he was taken there, he'd rest quietly. If he was taken somewhere else instead, he'd protest! He also would request specific foods, and be agitated if he was given a different food instead, possibly even throwing it at the researcher before repeating his original request!

Alex and Me

This is Dr. Irene Pepperberg's book about Alex.

Videos of Alex, the Talking Parrot and Dr. Pepperberg - Parrot Intelligence and Communication

Another very interesting video that discusses the communication of parrots can be found at Parrot Intelligence: Dr. Pepperberg with African Greys Griffin, Alex, and Einstein.

An Avian Expert Voices Her View About Alex and Arielle, and Their Abilities to Communicate With Humans - My favorite Link On This Page!

There's a short video, as well as an article, on this link! They're both worth checking out!


African Grey Parrot

Photo by L.Miguel Bugallo Sánche


Comments? Questions?

Think Some Birds Can Learn How To REALLY Communicate With Us?

I'm now convinced. How about you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, views, and experiences!!

Can Parrots Really Talk? - Or are they just mimicking us?

What do you think? Do they understand what they are saying? Can they put words together to express thoughts?

See results

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    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I'll admit, I am a sucker for great photos so I was drawn right into this lens. Good information too. Blessed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      I found it interesting that the newscaster doing the video on Alex the parrots death stumbled over his words! This is a lovely article. Very well done.

    • LisaKelley profile image

      LisaKelley 5 years ago

      To add to my previous comment, our Grey also says every morning, "Wanna come out and help Dad make the coffee!" She keeps saying this until Daddy takes her out of her cage and lets her play on the kitchen counter while he makes the coffee. Love these guys! Yes, they definitely know what they are saying!

    • LisaKelley profile image

      LisaKelley 5 years ago

      Love your lens. We have an African Grey, Senegal, and Moustached Parakeet (star of my children's book, "The Lonely Parrot"). The Grey is amazingly intelligent and speaks with knowledge of what she is saying. For example, she'll say, "Wanna come out" when she wants to come out of her cage. If something frightens her, she says, "Don't be scared." If she's hanging upside down in her cage, she says, "What are you doing upside down." She says "Hi Mommy" when I come home and "Bye Mommy" when I leave. So yes, I agree with you. Parrots DO communicate with us, and they have complete understanding of what is going on in her environment. It's like talking to another human being. Great lens. Great photos! Great recommendations. If you get a chance, please check out my lens: https://hubpages.com/literature/the-lonely-parrot-...

    • ComfortsOfHome profile image

      ComfortsOfHome 5 years ago

      I can't get over the picture of your daughter with the macaw perched on her hat, and another one kissing her! I'd probably be very nervous to do that - but macaws are such beautiful birds, I do like to look at them from a safe distance!

    • profile image

      jenjenjenga 5 years ago

      I love parrots!

    • profile image

      supersiva 5 years ago

      I love parrots and especially macaws

    • mycalculadora profile image

      mycalculadora 5 years ago

      a great lens! RIP Alex :)

    • filcaske1 lm profile image

      filcaske1 lm 5 years ago

      I had to stop by again and look at your beautiful pictures! Blue and Gold Macaw is one of my favorite birds. I think all birds are beautiful but the Macaw really takes the cake! After living with birds almost my entire life, I too, can say they don't just mimic. They really do understand what they are saying, and what we are saying! Love it! Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @JanieceTobey: wow

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 6 years ago

      I'm a strong believer in the intelligence of parrots and their ability to speak of their own volition. Wonderfully informative lens with gorgeous photos. Angel Blessings!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @wormwood80: they are so much smart

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i love them

    • wormwood80 profile image

      wormwood80 5 years ago

      Great lens! I like that you highlighted the cases of birds actually knowing what they're saying - far too many people assume they are just mimicking. As someone who lives with parrots, I can tell you without a doubt that they understand a number of phrases. My birds always warn me they're about to drop a bomb by saying "Poop!" One requests out of cage time with, "Step up!" (that's what I say to her when I come to get her out).

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Very nice and informative lens!

      Glad to find it and learn something new today! : )

    • HoolyBird profile image

      Holly Starenchak 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I am an aviculturist expert, avian vet tech, and a full time parront of a C.A.G, a Redheaded Mexican Amazon, and 2 conures. I am certain of their intelligence. My grey no doubt can learn how to read in time. They have distinct likes and dislikes, and they understand what they want, and let us know, very clearly, when they want it.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Awesome lens, love it :-)

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      Pinned and blessed.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      Very impressive lens on bird communication with humans. Alex is a wonder! Blessings and a bit o' sunshine for this enjoyable flight.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great photos. I love the one with your daughter. She's very brave! I'm scared of birds.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I think birds make nice companions. My mom used to have a parakeet and we had a cockatoo for many years. I didn't know the Blue and Gold Macaws faces turn pink when they are excited. That's interesting to know. :)

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      I simply don't have the time to keep a happy parrot, but I am blessed with a few friends who do, so I've been lucky enough to spend some time in the company of these amazing birds. Thanks for sharing this lens!

    • filcaske1 lm profile image

      filcaske1 lm 5 years ago

      I really liked your lens! I wrote my first lens about exotic birds/parrots last night, and reading others lenses is really inspiring! I love birds! Keep up the good work!

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      Good lens ... Thank You.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This was such an interesting read and you can sure tell that you put a lot of work and research into creating this wonderful page about the Blue and Gold Macaws and African Greys.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I enjoyed this so much! The videos, information and photos are fantastic! Blessed!

    • Gigglish profile image

      Gigglish 5 years ago

      I remember being told by someone who owns and loves parrots that they are like a cross between a toddler and an alien. :)

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      As I wrote above, I know that some birds really do understand and pick up language.

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      When I think of macaws I think of rainforests! I guess macaws don't know how to talk like we do but know which response to use in the right situation.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Am not really familiar with these. Thanks for the info.

    • sharioleary profile image

      Shari O'Leary 5 years ago from Minnesota

      What a great lens! Nice job!

    • jackieb99 profile image

      jackieb99 6 years ago

      Love the lens...very interesting reading.

    • dustytoes profile image

      dustytoes 6 years ago

      Thanks for this page about parrots. I love that shot of your daughter. She is brave! Leaving a blessing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love the photos on this Lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I was in the neighborhood, so I stopped to take another peek at these beautiful birds. I'm going through your 10 newest list and having such fun!

    • missbat profile image

      missbat 6 years ago

      Such beautiful birds and so very intelligent! I'm certain macaws CAN talk! A fabulous lens. Loved all the pretty pictures.

    • JanieceTobey profile image
      Author

      JanieceTobey 6 years ago

      @sheriangell: Thanks so much for sharing your experience with your parrot!

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      I've owned parrots including a Scarlett Macaw. Yes they can most definitely communicate. I had a parrot who every time the dogs barked he would tell them to "Be Quiet!". Then he would say "Want to go outside?" He could actually call them each by name. It was fascinating.

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 6 years ago

      Excellent lens. Blessed.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      Great lens; I've never thought so much about how and why birds communicate. You have chosen some amazing pictures. Blessed.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      I believe that these birds are extremely intelligent and do communicate. Great lens and great videos.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I love macaws. They are fascinating birds. Great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      That aj took everything I was going to say! A beautiful and fascinating piece os art here!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is an excellent lens you've put together -- very informative and loved all the beautiful pictures. It's amazing what these birds can do! :)

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

      Great article. I am still undecided as to whether they can really communicate or not. You did give us some interesting facts to consider. Great job.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      I learnt so much here, great images. **Blessed** and featured on My Time as a Squid Angel :)

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 6 years ago

      Amazing colours - and think all animals find the best way they can to communicate with us :)

    • rlivermore profile image

      rlivermore 6 years ago

      Yes, I believe birds can communicate to us in different ways.