Who’s Makin’ All That Racket? 4 Tips on Understanding Your Parrot’s Vocalizations

Our parrots know exactly what they are saying. Trouble is, most of the time, we don?.

Moluccan cockatoo
It takes a lot of time, and effort, to understand our parrots and what they are trying to express to us.

In the wild, parrots vocalize to each other all the time. Everyone knows what each other is “saying,?whether it? with certain squawks, chirps or whistles. They understand each others body language as well, and very rarely are there any misunderstandings. Unfortunately, that is sometimes not the case for a parrot living in People-ville.

Here are 4 tips on understanding what your parrot might be trying to tell you:

1) Call Of The Wild
Although parrots in the wild will chatter to each other throughout the day, there are typically three times a day where their vocalizations are the most prevalent: morning, noon and evening. These vocalizations connect each parrot to their flock and keeps everyone informed with what is going on around them.

Although she has never been to her homeland of Indonesia, my Moluccan cockatoo hen, Thor, is just as instinctual about vocalizing during these specific times as her wild cousins are.

The first time Thor graced our farm with one of the loudest, screeching wails my ears had ever heard, I almost broke my leg running up the stairs, certain that my newly adopted cockatoo was in the painful throws of a miserable death.

When I slid into the living room on my sock feet, Thor? salmon-colored crest stood up like a giant orange exclamation point. She looked at me as if to say, “What is YOUR problem????Clearly she was NOT dying. And once I left the room, Thor happily resumed yelling her feathered head off. After 15 minutes, Thor? “Ode To The Jungle?serenade was complete. Satisfied with her efforts, she fluffed her feathers, clattered and ground her beak a few times, and settled quietly down for a nap.

In time, I learned the pattern and duration of Thor? thrice-daily vocalizations. I also came to understand that during those specific moments of “racket,?Thor wasn? unhappy or hungry, and she wasn? perceiving herself in danger. She actually didn? want a single thing from me. She was just simply connecting with the instincts from the “wild bird?deep within her soul.

2) Where Are You???
Parrots are flock-oriented creatures. They normally function in a highly-tuned group, often flying and responding to the world around them as one. If a parrot becomes separated from their flock, they have certain vocalizations called “contact calls?that help in locating stray members of the group. This can also happen in our own homes when our parrots find themselves wondering where WE are.

My timneh African grey, Petrie, is king of the contact callsŠor contact “whistles,?actually. He has a certain inquiring whistle that I know means “Where are you??Because I understand that I am a member of his “flock of two,?I know that it is important to him that I reply.

Responding to a contact call from our parrots lets them know that we hear them and that we understand their need to connect with usŠeven if we don? exactly know what they are saying.

When we respond to our parrots, even with just a whistle or by simply saying, “I? over hereR we have given our parrot the courtesy of acknowledging their existence in our world.

3) They Need Something ŠSometimes
Parrots have subtle nuances to their vocalizations. Every sound means something and there is usually ?USUALLY ?a reason behind it. The important thing is to know our parrots vocalizations well enough to know what is realŠand what is not.

I have learned over the years that my parrots have specific sounds that tell me when they want something. There are certain sounds that mean they would like to listen to music, that there is something “weird?in their water bowl, that they would like a treat, want a scratch, or even when they are sleepy and ready for bedtime.

Unfortunately, our parrots will sometimes use their vocal powers to try to train their gullible humans into “coming when called.?Parrots might call this “entertainment.?We would probably call it manipulation. Either way, you certainly don? want to reinforce unnecessary screaming by showing up each time it happens, so it? important to have a good understanding of your parrot? vocalizations so unwanted habits do not arise.

It takes time and effort to understand a parrot. There have been many instances where parrots have alerted their humans to all sorts of dangers, and only because their caregivers were extremely in tune to the sounds their parrots madeŠand when they made them.

Of course, the flip side to this coin are those “Just Because?moments where it simply must feel good to be a parrot and be loud for no reason at all. Remember, most of our parrots are the equivalent of 5 year olds in feather suits. Children and parrots find joy in the most simple things, especially NOISE.

I remember playing “King of the Mountain,?when I was young. After reaching the top of that so-called “mountain,?I rattled off the most ridiculous Tarzan yell that my 5-year-old lungs could muster. Why? Because it was silly and fun and because I could.

Perhaps we had more in common with our parrots as children than we realize as adults.

4) Put Yourself On Their Perch
We cannot possibly begin to fathom the difficulty of being a parrot living in our odd human world. How frustrated they must become at trying to communicate with us! And while we think our parrots can make a lot of noise, can you just imagine how noisy our world must be to them?

Imagine what parrots would hear in the jungle, grasslands or the open plain: the roll of thunder of an approaching storm; the soft sounds of rain; the vast and varied sounds of other animals, birds and bugs. Not at all like what our everyday world sounds like.

When you think about it, humans are really quite a noisy bunch. And we?e gotten so used to our noise that many of us honestly do not know what to do when we don’t hear it. So we leave the television on when we sleep, or leave a fan humming along all night because the silence is too overwhelming. We turn up our televisions and stereos, immersing ourselves with “surround sound.” When our houses are filled with company, there is much music and laughter. We happily chatter on the phone. We’re so used to our own “noise” that we don’t even stop to think about it, much less hear it. But our parrots certainly do; they have to live with us and OUR racket every single day.

Our parrots keenly observe us, and try to fit into our world the best way they know how. Maybe all their noise is sometimes just in response to ours. And although our noises are different, they are still expressions just the same.

So before we go pointing an accusing finger at our parrots, proclaiming them to be “loud and obnoxious,?maybe we should take a step back and look at the world we have placed them into.

Perhaps “all that racket” our parrots make is simply a reflection of how they see our worldŠand are just trying to fit in.

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Birds