How to Teach a Macaw to Talk

There are 17 known species of macaw parrot.
There are 17 known species of macaw parrot. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The macaw is a family of parrot species known for their beautiful vibrant colors and also their intelligence. Many macaw species, of which there are 17 total, can be trained to speak words from human languages. This birds simply repeat sounds they hear, but people recognize them as actual words. The key to training a parrot to talk is repetition.

Recognize the likelihood that your species of macaw will be willing to speak. Larger parrots, such as the scarlet macaw, are more likely to be trained to speak because their throats and vocal chords are more suited to imitating human words. Additionally, very shy parrots may be less willing to speak. This behavior can vary from bird to bird, even within the same species.

Develop a relationship with your bird which allows you to get close to it, pet it, feed it and nurture it without fear or animosity from either you or the bird. This will allow the bird to trust you, making training easier. Developing a loving relationship with your macaw requires a time investment on the owner's part followed by proper grooming, provision of a spacious cage and proper food as well as treats.

Keep your parrot's cage in a room in the house in which there is frequent, pleasant conversation. This could include the kitchen, living room or family room. The more exposure the bird has to language, the easier it will recognize certain sounds.

Refrain from yelling at or around your parrot. In order for your macaw to want to speak, the atmosphere must be relaxed. Also, the parrot is not trying to communicate using an actual language. It is only trying to repeat sounds. Therefore, if you yell those sounds around the parrot, it may believe it needs to imitate at a large volume or high pitch.

Turn off all sound distractions such as televisions or radios when focusing on your bird and training one-on-one.

Choose a word that you would like your parrot to learn. Two-syllable words work well for beginners. An example is "carrot."

Speak the word to your bird clearly. Wait 10 seconds and repeat the word again. Wait 10 more seconds and repeat the word. Say the word at least 10 times or until the parrot makes a noise. Reward the parrot with a treat for the noise. It will not sound like the word "carrot" at the start. This exercise must be repeated at least three times daily.

Continue rewarding the parrot for every noise that it makes which sounds like the word you are trying to teach. However, note that you should not reward the parrot if the noise it makes sounds less like the word than it did before.

Focus on only one word at a time until the parrot has mastered it. Move on to a new word, and master that one before moving on to avoid confusing the parrot.

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