Birds aren’t like babies—you can’t expect them to pick up speech just by babbling away at them. You need a plan.
Step 1: Pick the right breed If you haven’t already bought Tweety, pick a breed that is known for its chattiness. Amazon parrots and African greys are the gabbiest, followed by macaws, male cockatiels, mynahs, and parakeets.
Step 2: Choose an inquisitive bird Once you’ve narrowed your choices to a talkative breed, focus your attention on choosing a bird that seems alert and interested in what’s going on around him. These are clues that he’ll make a good talker.
Step 3: Get a young bird Get a young bird. Like the proverbial old dog who can’t learn new tricks, an older bird is going to have more trouble picking up speech.
Step 4: Name that bird Give the bird a name that is no more than two syllables. A longer name reduces the chances that he will learn to say his own name.
Step 5: Designate a teacher If you’re married and/or have children, pick one person to teach the bird. If several people are trying to instruct the bird, it will only confuse it.
TIP: Birds learn more easily from women.
Step 6: Time your training Start training at the optimal time. For smaller birds, that’s at four to six months. For bigger birds, wait until they’re six to twelve months.
TIP: Don’t teach a bird to whistle before training him to talk, or it will make the speech lessons that much harder.
Step 7: Keep it simple Start training by saying a few simple words to Tweety, always using them under the same circumstances. For example, you could say 'Good morning' every day when you first rise, and you could reserve 'Bye' for when the bird can see you walk out the door.
Step 8: Repeat words Repeat the words several times in each instance. You want the bird to start associating the sound you are making with the context.
Step 9: Reward speech Give Tweety a treat every time he repeats something you are teaching him.
TIP: Remember that birds don’t just repeat what you want them to; they mimic sounds they hear. So if you’re suffering a bout of loud flatulence, or getting ready to rip someone a new one, stay out of Tweety’s earshot.
Step 10: Unteach them If Tweety has picked up a bad word, washing his mouth out with soap won’t work. But ignoring him when he repeats the word will, because getting your attention is his main incentive.
Step 11: Enjoy Now enjoy chatting with your fine-feathered friend!
FACT: Talking birds often will imitate your phone’s ring tone because they get a kick out of watching you come running.