It’s a common myth that parrot communication is limited to mimicking human language. Claire learns words that help her or convey something that she cannot communicate effectively with natural vocalizations and beaking. She particularly likes words with multiple meanings, that she can use with different intonations for a variety of messages. I imagine that parrot language is similar, as they use a range of volume and sounds to communicate with each other.
As flock birds, they do mimic sounds to join in group activities or communicate warnings with other species. When outside as a parront, you start to notice wild bird behavior and how it effects your bird. For example, there are universal predator warning calls and signal between all species of birds. It’s typically a high pitched, repetitive squeak followed by a scrambling of birds in the air taking flight at once in different directions to confuse a predator.
When Claire is in the midst of human activities such as the talking and moving sounds of collaborative projects or the shrill sounds of children at play, she will echo the sounds she hears to join the group. However, she calls toward the movement while staying safely concealed at a distance and enjoys the audible connection with intermittent giggles and chirps.
Words, sounds and beaking that she uses to communicate include:
- Greeting – happy, sad, non-chalant, cute (every voice she’s heard)
- Question – Can I have some of that? or What are you doing?
- Reminder – Don’t forget me or Don’t forget to do this or You forgot something!
- Recognition (with leaning) – We’re almost there, I want to be there
- Instruction – Pick me up, take me there, give me some
- She knows what hot feels like (taste, body temperature, room temperature or burning sensation)
- She knows what hot looks like (hot coil on electric stove, fire, steam, smoke, hot pot)
- She knows what hot smells like (cooking, smoke)
- She knows how to anticipate hot (if it comes off the stove)
- Sometimes also means cold
- Total surprise – low pitch, high volume
- Outrage – high pitch, high volume
- Question (as in What is it? or What do you want?) – low pitch, low volume
*screaming* and/or *biting* and/or leading my hand away
- I’m jealous. I want to be part of the conversation. (scream/locator flock call)
- I want to see what I hear. Take me there. (“hello”, followed by as single scream if I ignore the “hello”)
- I’m hungry. (quick or soft bite, usually on my knuckle)
- You’re doing it wrong.
- This is not what’s supposed to happen now. (hard bite with a glare)
- You’re doing it out of order. (hard bite with a glare)
- No, I don’t want to do that. (hard bite with a glare)
- I love you
- (for me in front of a stranger) I like that person
- Thank you
- You [finally] got it right, mom.
Words, sounds and beaking with single meanings:
- “It’s Good?… It’s Good.” or dropping it on the floor (not good) – Eating/trying new or exciting foods
- “Just Whisper” (in a whisper) – Bed time, Good night
- “Pretty Bird” – usually a nervous reaction to getting into trouble (remember, I’m a pretty bird)
- “Step Up” – I want to step up right now.
- “Brat” – I don’t like what you just did.
- Giggle, chuckle, guffaw – in response to something funny she heard or a joke she’s playing (like mimicking my snore)
- Dragging her beak (often across my arm, leg or head) – This is mine, my territory
- Hard bite, sometimes with a yelp when someone is close – There is a threat to our relationship nearby. This is mine.
- Regurgitation (rapid beaking on finger with body movement) – I love you. It’s your turn to eat.
She is currently learning “pear” and “pair” (by sound) as something we eat that’s good and you and me makes two and we’re a pair. Not sure how it will work out in terms of her vocalizing, but she shows she recognizes the dual use of the word through her body language (bright eyes, focus on the object, focus on me, head tilt, fluffing).