African grey parrots are particularly noted for their cognitive abilities, which are believed to have evolved as a consequence of their history of cooperative feeding as largely tree-dwelling birds in central Africa.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s extensive research with captive African greys, especially the one known as Alex, have provided evidence that these parrots are capable of associating human words with their meanings, at least to some extent, though these conclusions are disputed. Ambitious claims of language use have been made for another African grey, N’kisi, who has a vocabulary of around a thousand words and speaks in sentences.[citation needed] Although there exists a great deal of debate as to just how well these birds actually understand the meaning of the words they speak, there is little doubt that Greys and other parrots (especially macaws and cockatoos), along with corvines (crows, ravens, and jays), are highly intelligent in comparison with other birds.

It is widely believed in the parrot-keeping community that Greys understand their human companions at various human intelligence levels. For example, some believe that a young Grey (under a year) has the equivalent understanding of a human toddler and the cognitive ability of a 6-year-old human child.

Many greys are excellent talkers, with a capacity of over 1500 words. They don’t repeat all words they seem to favour a few and just learn new ones and say the words they know at random along with household noises such as the telephone ,doorbell or microwave, often so well that they confuse their owners! greys have a unique capacity for putting their words and sounds into the right context as opposed to simply repeating them, which shows their intelligence.

Einstein the African Grey at the Tennessee Knoxville Zoo knows over 100 words that she can say on cue!  These birds usually don’t start talking until they are 1 to 2 years old but some may take even longer to learn. It is important to note that even though Congo and Timneh Agrican Greys are famous for their parrot talking skills,  some individual birds never learn to talk at all. If you want a talker guaranteed,  get a bird that is already talking.

Below is a video about Griffin, who has succeeded ALEX in helping Dr. Irene PEPPERBERG of Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, prove that Parrots are sensitive, intelligent, thinking, feeling creatures!


Any pet parrot should be purchased as soon as possible after it is weaned from hand feeding. For an African Grey, this would be about 2 months of age, depending on the bird. For teaching tricks and how to talk, it depends on the individual bird. You can start teaching birds very early, but don't expect too much from them too early. Each bird is different and learns at it's own pace.

One old theory stated that you should never start whistling at parrots, because they find whistling easier than talking. African Greys seem to have an innate ability to wolf whistle. The bird should be located in an area where it will receive plenty of attention and interaction. Approach the cage slowly and speak in soft, gentle tones. Once you sense that the bird feels comfortable, you can begin short training periods.

Start with simple, short words or phrases such as “hello”, or “good morning”. In between lessons, speak to and interact with the bird so that it gets used to hearing your voice. This action, in itself, may encourage it to talk. Birds seem to respond better to high pitch voices, but you should speak with lots of animation and . inflection. This is one reason birds pick up bad words; the emotion behind them is what is exciting and fun, not the words themselves. Encourage all in the family to take part in the lessons

Teach by association. Use the same basic phrase for the same task. For example, in teaching it to request food, use the same request phrase, such as "want," "Want some apple, want some squash," and so on. However, don’t bore your parrot by repeating the same phrase over and over. If you’re teaching a specific object, you may want to talk about it using different contexts. For example, "Want a red apple? Here’s the red apple.

If you use recordings, don’t play them longer than 15-20 minutes at a time and be there to interact with the recordings and your bird. The more you interact and participate in the learning process with your bird, the more it will learn. It best to have a daily schedule for training sessions. Select a period when your bird is the most expressive, and keep the lessons short, no longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

And finally do not try to teach more than one word or phrase at a time to your African Grey.

Training your grey African parrot requires patience, understanding, knowledge, and a lot of discipline. As with any animal (or human being), if you teach something today and consider your job done, you’ll find that whatever behavior you were attempting to teach will be forgotten much quicker than it took you to teach it.

Consistency and discipline are of paramount importance when training a grey African parrot. The difficulties the arise in training a grey African parrot will mostly be subject to the interactions you develop with an intelligent bird that may not always want to do what you want him to do.

Getting upset with the breeder will lead the person nowhere, because getting a quiet or very vocal African grey parrot is like trying to get a child with certain characteristics – designing the ideal animal or child is not an exact science.


Most can agree that some parts of a bird’s anatomy can deliver quite painful attacks if our pets become angry with us. Indeed, the instincts and inherently wild nature of our avian companions can bring forth many behaviors that are undesirable in the home. Dealing with these issues can be especially trying for bird owners, given that their feathered friends are such highly sociable and emotionally sensitive creatures. Read on for tips that will help you gently but effectively convey your displeasure toward undesirable behavior in your pet bird.


Although at times your pet may behave in a way that annoys you or makes you downright mad, it’s important to remember these rules when responding to the transgression:

    Never hit a bird - Birds are extremely fragile creatures and even the slightest force can cause severe injury or death. Physically abusing a bird can also lead to irreversible psychological problems, and can promote aggression and viciousness.

    Don’t hold a grudge - Birds are extremely intelligent, but also very sensitive creatures. When you express displeasure with your bird’s behavior, make the lesson short and sweet. Prolonged negative attention can cause undue emotional stress for your pet.

    Never compromise your bird’s health -  “Punishing” a bird by witholding food or neglecting cage cleaning is never a fit way to deal with a behavior problem. Such actions are not only cruel, but can cause serious physical and emotional damage for the pet.


In order for your bird to understand you when you catch him acting up, it’s necessary that you remember the correct way to respond. While a normal “human” response to an unpleasant discovery would be to loudly declare your grievance, a bird can interpret this reaction and body language as excitement — meaning that he may actually think you are praising the behavior. Conclusively, dealing with a bird’s behavior problem can be just as much about training yourself as it is about training your pet.

In order to respond properly to undesirable behavior, it’s helpful to keep the following steps in mind. With consistency and patience, you may find that it won’t take long for your bird to catch on.

    Have the bird step up onto your hand - When your bird misbehaves, have him step up onto your hand and hold him at eye level.

    Be very expressive - Don’t be afraid to frown at your bird. Avians are capable of picking up on facial expressions, and most get the idea if your body language expresses your distaste for his actions.

    Speak softly, but sternly
- Use a tone of voice that is low but not loud when you tell your bird that he has done wrong. Be as “matter of fact” as possible, but keep it short. You will be amazed at how effective it can be!

    Place your bird on his cage or perch
- After you’ve conveyed your dissatisfaction, have your bird step off of your hand and onto his cage or perch. Allow him to stay there for a few minutes to reflect on what happened, and then go back and interact playfully with your pet — he should know that you are no longer upset with him, and that he is now being a good bird.

All birds are individuals, and some may catch on quicker than others. Don’t get discouraged if your pet’s behavior doesn’t change overnight. As long as you stay consistent with your training methods, your bird will likely understand you sooner rather than later.

Remember that positively reinforcing good behavior is just as important than pointing out and modifying bad behavior. If you notice your bird acting exceptionally well, don’t miss the chance to lavish praise on your pet. Birds respond much more readily to training techniques that focus on the positive rather than the negative, so don’t forget to incorporate lots of fun and praise into your training methods.

With a little work, patience, and love, your bird should be acting like an angel in no time. Your effort will be rewarded with a beautiful, intelligent, and well-behaved pet — and who could ask for anything more?

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