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Teaching your Cockatiel to Talk


The ability to talk is a characteristic of cockatiels that has increased their popularity immensely as household pets. Although their vocabulary is not as broad as some of the larger parrot species they can say many simple words and phrases and can learn to mimic common household noises. With enough exposure to certain tunes they can even whistle many simple melodies with surprising accuracy.


I want a cockatiel that talks!


This is one of the most common statements made by prospective new pet owners. They have seen or heard a friends bird that has mastered a few words or tunes and want the same thing.


Generally speaking cockatiels don't come with that ability already unless they are an older trained bird. Most females do not talk or whistle much at all but there are exceptions to the rule. It is most commonly the males that can be taught to talk but remember just as some females may talk there are males that won't. I usually find that a handraised male bird that is very vocal and making lots of noise by around the 9 week old mark will generally be a good subject to teach to talk. I say handraised bird here too because for a bird to talk it will need lots of human contact and must feel comfortable in a normal household environment. A young bird is also a much better option.


Where do I begin?


So you have now found the ideal young handraised male cockatiel and are all set to start his english lessons!


A few points need to be kept in mind here. The bird is new to your household and very young. The first and foremost concern of yours should be his health and wellbeing. Develop a bond with your bird by playing with it and getting it used to you and your home. Always speak quietly and clearly and be patient! Developing a bond with you  will make him much happier and more receptive to your efforts.


While you are playing with him and each time you go near him say his name clearly or just say hello or something similar. Whatever you decide to say make sure it is very simple and that you say it clearly. The more you say something and he hears it the more likely he is to copy you. I often start with just a wolf whistle. Each time I whistle then the bird learns to repeat it back. This is all part of the process of teaching a bird to mimic you. It is a trait that most cockatiel males do naturally anyway but the earlier they start the easier it is to teach them more.

Repetition is the key!!


What can I teach him?


The simplest things to teach your cockatiel to begin with his easy words and phrases you would say to him each time you greet him. Things like 'hello buddy', 'pretty boy', 'whatcha doin', and  'scratch' for example are all words and phrases I have taught young birds to say.


Whatever you choose must be something he will hear over and over again. The repetition is the key to him being able to mimic the words. I have found most young males in my household learn the phone ring first before anything else. They get so adept at the sound that it can be difficult to differentiate the bird sound from the real phone. May times I have run up from the backyard to answer the phone only to find a bird sitting there with a smug look on his face and no one on the telephone at all!


Another sound they pick up quickly is alarm clock beeps. Once again it is due to the repetitiveness of the sound.


Tapes and cds are available for purchase that contain simple songs and tunes that can be played to your bird even while you are out. With enough exposure to these tunes your bird can learn to whistle them quite adeptly. If you don't like the idea of these means and can whistle well then you can teach the bird your own tunes. Remember though you must whistle these tunes regularly for your bird to learn them. Start with tunes that have only 4 or 5 notes in them and once he has mastered those add on some more notes.



Remember that the ability to talk is just one characteristic of your bird that will endear him to you. If he never utters a word it does not mean he loves you any less. Once he is in your home he is totally reliant on you for everything from feed and warmth, to entertainment and exercise. Treat him well and look after his physical needs first Develop a strong bond with your cockatiel and the rest of his training will flow from there!

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Email: jo-annewatts@optusnet.com.au

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