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Why Do Parrots Mimic People? (What Science Says)

Ed Malaker

Parrots are popular pets across the United States, and one of the reasons so many people enjoy raising them is that they have an uncanny ability to mimic things around them, including people. In fact, many species of parrot can even learn how to say several words. If you would like to know more about your pet and why they mimic people, keep reading while we offer several explanations so you can see what makes the most sense regarding your pet parrot.

divider-birdReasons That Parrots Mimic People

1. They Are Acting on Instinct

Parrots are extremely social animals, and they can live in large flocks in the wild. Since they live in these large communities, they need to communicate with each other. They quickly learn the chatter and songs required to stay healthy and safe. At the first sign of danger, the entire flock will fly off due to this communication, and it will also help them find food and shelter. In captivity, your parrot doesn’t get to be part of a large flock, so you and your family become the ones it tries to mimic. Instead of chirps and songs, your parrot will likely mimic the sound of alarm clocks, doorbells, and other noises around your home. It might even learn several of your favorite words, depending on the species.

Some parrots can tell you what their favorite food is and even count several numbers.

Parrot Eating Fruits

What Does Science Say?

Science supports the idea that parrots have developed the ability to mimic in order to help them communicate with their flock. Studies suggest that the birds mimic instead of creating a standard call because each community will develop a local dialect, allowing them to communicate even if multiple flocks are near each other. Regional dialects help mates find one another and will enable the creation of territorial boundaries.


2. They Are Seeking Attention

In captivity, your bird will act much differently than it does in the wild. It will also require plenty of attention and may engage in strange behavior if it feels like you are ignoring it. If it can see you, it will usually bob its head or quickly flap its wings, trying to get your attention. If it’s out of its cage, it may also try pulling at your hair and may even grab it as it flies overhead. If it can’t see you, it is more likely to attempt to recreate sounds it hears around your home, especially those that cause you to get up and look for the source, like an alarm clock or a doorbell.

Eclectus Parrot in cage_cheetahok-shutterstock
Image credit: Cheetahok, Shutterstock

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Why Do Speaking Parrots Swear So Often?

We’ve all seen movies where there is a talking parrot that says a lot of swear words, and unfortunately, the reality is not that far off. Many owners report that their parrots learn and repeat swear words more than any other words. Obviously, many birds learn these words because their owners deliberately teach them, but parrots can also learn by overhearing them. Many people may not realize that they often repeat just a few swear words, compared to other words we use that are constantly changing. Even someone with a relatively clean vocabulary may repeat the same expletive several times in a short conversation, giving your bird something to learn and repeat.

It’s important to be extremely careful when using bad language around your bird. Though it may be funny, it can be challenging to rehome a bird that spews bad language. While most of us would never want to willingly part with our birds, some parrots can live 80 years or more, and a lot can happen during that time. Make sure your pet has the best chance for a good home by avoiding foul language while in earshot of your talking parrots.

divider-birdSummary

While no one can say exactly why animals do what they do, there is good evidence to suggest that parrots naturally evolved the ability to mimic in order to communicate with others in the same community. Since flocks can get quite large, with several competing flocks nearby, it’s important to tell the difference. In captivity, you and your home become the bird’s flock, so it tries to fit in by using its ability to mimic the sounds it hears most often. It will also use this ability to communicate with you, especially if it feels you are not giving it enough attention.

We hope you have enjoyed this short guide and it has answered your questions. If we helped you understand your bird’s behavior a little better, please share this guide to why parrots mimic people on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.