Are you wondering whether your Parakeet is even aware of your existence? Can it recognize and differentiate you from other people?
The good news is that your parakeet can learn to recognize you by your voice.
Parakeets Recognize their Owners By Sound
Parakeet owners often wonder whether their birds recognize them. They look for signs that their parakeet knows them.
The assumption is often that if my budgie will perch on my finger, she knows me. Or if my parakeet wants to climb under my sleeve and poke out his head, he knows me.
Parakeets that begin to chirp and chatter when I walk into the same room as their cage must know their people.
The real sign of recognition from your parakeet, however, is that when you talk to your parakeet, your parakeet talks back.
In the wild, a male parakeet has to learn the female’s call. The male has to adapt his voice more than the female.
This is probably the reason that male parakeets learn more words than female parakeets.
Male parakeets don’t completely change their voices until it is certain the female won’t just fly away.
They don’t learn new calls instantly. Similarly, a male parakeet won’t learn a word from you for several weeks.
On some instinctive level, it is making sure that you won’t “fly away” before it imitates your speech.
Parakeets do their mating calls several times a day for several weeks for the male to learn how to imitate the female.
Your parakeet may need you to teach it a word several times a few hours apart during the day, so it can remember it.
We don’t really know if your parakeet wonders if you are a really odd-looking parakeet.
We do know that when a male’s cere (the fleshy protuberance over its beak) turns blue and the female’s cere turns brown, they are at a good age for learning speech. (This is also a signal that they are old enough to mate.)
As your parakeet spends more and more time learning your “calls,” it may get excited before each session.
Its eyes may dilate to pinpricks. It may splash its bath water. It may fluff out its feathers. It may chirp out a fluid, bubbly song while it is waiting for you to speak.
These are all ways that parakeets show that they are in the mood for love. The love bond with you is different, but it also involves speech.
Parakeets Recognize Each Other by Sound
In the dry grasslands of Australia, parakeets live in flocks of three to hundreds of birds.
After rainfall, thousands of parakeets can converge on seasonal marshes that provide abundant food, water, and shelter.
Parakeets and other birds in the Parrot Family are unusual in that they can continue to learn how to make new sounds throughout their lives.
They are not limited to a call they learned as chicks or young adults.
A mated male and female parakeet can create their own unique calls so their mates can find them in a huge flock of birds.
Baby parakeets learn to listen for the sound of their parents to know food and protection are on their way.
Male and female parakeets have different calls. When a male and a female start their courtship, they begin calling to each other much more often. This keeps them closer and builds their bond.
In the early days of courtship, the male will imitate the female’s call, but the female will not imitate the male.
Ornithologists believe that imitating the female’s call is designed to impress her. Females prefer males that are good at imitating their unique calls.
Once the female has laid eggs, the two parakeets’ calls start to become different again.
By the time the next mating season comes around, the female may not be able to pick out her previous male in the flock of birds.
Researchers have studied the calls mated pairs of parakeets use to recognize each other in the lab.
The scientists previously knew that mated parakeets can recognize each other after they have been separated for 70 days.
They did not know whether they recognized each other on the basis of sound or sight.
To test this, researchers chose pairs of male and female budgies. Then they separated them.
The researchers did not allow the parakeets to hear or see each other.
Then the scientists played a recording of the male’s song to see if the female would call back, proving she remembered it.
The parakeet researchers tested the ability of female parakeets to remember calls in three different ways:
- They paired males and females at random, so the females weren’t choosing calls more like their own to mate with.
- Then they recorded males before they had paired with the females and they had begun to change the sound of their calls.
- Then the researchers played back calls to the female that weren’t like her own.
The scientists tested the female’s response to her mate’s call at one, two, and six months.
After a month, the female still responded to her mate’s call. Beyond that, the female didn’t call back to her mate.
It was known from other studies that parakeets are very good at remembering calls for up to 180 days.
So it seems that after a month the female still knows what her mate sounds like. But if he’s been gone for a month, she doesn’t care about him any more.
What does this tell us about how parakeets remember your call, or how you sound?
- When a parakeet is interested in you, it wants to sound like you. That’s probably why parakeets have the ability to learn words and phrases in human speech.
- When a parakeet hasn’t seen you for a few days, it is still happy to talk to you. This can last for about a month.
- But if you stop talking to your parakeet, your parakeet will stop talking to you.
Four Tips for Teaching Parakeets to Talk
Parakeets have the speaking ability on the same level as parrots.
It’s not hard to teach your parakeet to recognize you by talking to you, but there are some ground rules that make the process a lot easier.
First, make sure you are training a biologically male parakeet.
The female is more interested in training you to learn her calls than she is interested in learning your calls.
Female parakeets don’t imitate their mate’s calls very often, and they won’t talk to you very often.
They will make vocalizations. They may chirp. They sometimes imitate sounds in their environment.
There are a few females that do talk, but the great majority of parakeets that do talk are male.
The second tip for teaching a parakeet to talk is often overlooked:
Make sure that the parakeet you are training to talk to is the only bird in your house.
Many people complain that they have had parakeets for years and years and none of them have ever talked. That’s not hard to understand.
Parakeets naturally imitate the other birds in their flock. If you have two or more parakeets in a cage, they will spend much more time with each other than with you.
When you have a parakeet by itself, it will think of you, or other sounds in its environment, as its flock.
If you would like to have more than one parakeet that talks, train one parakeet by itself first. Give it a year or so to bond with you. Teach it all the sounds and phrases you want it to know.
Then, after a year or two, get a second parakeet. The second parakeet will regard the first parakeet as its flock. It will learn the words and phrases you taught your first bird.
The second parakeet will imitate the sounds the first bird makes, whether they are human words or random sounds the first bird learned of its environment.
The second bird isn’t learning from you but can repeat words that show recognition of you.
If you start with two or more parakeets, it’s very unlikely you will be able to teach any of them how to talk.
The third tip for teaching your parakeet to talk isn’t hard to understand, although it can be tiring to do:
Repeat the word or phrase you want your parakeet to learn 30 to 60 times a day
Start with a single word or a very simple phrase you want your parakeet to learn. “Cute baby bird” and “I love you” are great starter phrases.
They are nice and short, and they give your parakeet more of a chance to bond with you as it is learning to talk.
Say the starter phrase once, clearly, and slowly. Wait about five seconds, and say it again.
Repeat this routine for a minute or maybe two minutes, and then stop. Let your budgie do something else for a while.
Then come back about an hour later and repeat the training session all over again.
Two or three training sessions every day for a few months is enough to train a male budgie to repeat its first phrase, but all budgies don’t have the same talking ability.
Some parakeets will never learn how to talk. Some will pick up the idea of talking to you in just a week or two.
There’s a fourth way to help your parakeet learn how to speak that isn’t mentioned in most of the pet parenting books:
Cover your parakeet’s cage at night.
Make sure your parakeet gets at least 10, and preferably 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
The best way to do this is to be sure to turn off any overhead lights in the room where you keep your budgie around sundown.
You also need to place a cover over your parakeet’s cage to make sure that it is not disturbed by light, background noise, or drafts.
It’s best to get a commercial cage cover rather than making your own.
You absolutely do not want to cover your bird’s cage with a sheet of plastic. Your budgie could suffocate.
Birdcage covers need to be made of breathable fabric.
Don’t buy a bird cage cover made with cotton polyester; this fabric is treated with formaldehyde, which can be toxic to birds.
Hooks usually do a better job of keeping the cover on the cage than magnets. The only suitable color for a bird-cage cover is black.
Don’t forget to take the cover off the cage at night.
Observations of budgies in the dark made with infrared cameras show that when the lights go out, the parakeet will circle its cage a few times.
Then it will find a place to cling through the night while it sleeps. Parakeets usually sleep by hanging on to the side of their cage, but sometimes they hang upside down from the ceiling.
Once a parakeet goes to sleep, it enters rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. This is the time that forms the memories of what it learned during the day, including the words you taught it.
Parakeets spend more time in REM sleep than humans.
But if their REM sleep time is interrupted, by having the lights on all night or by an intruder, such as a cat, they will wake up groggy and not remember what they learned the day before.
Let’s do a quick review:
- Train a male budgie.
- Make sure it is not in the same house with other birds.
- Be patient. Repeat phrases 30 to 60 times a day until your parakeet learns them.
- Give your parakeet a relaxed environment, so it can learn.
Parakeets do recognize their humans. And when you spend enough time with them, they will recognize you with speech.
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