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Parrot uses 950 words to talk with people, crack jokes

Filed in - Press - Training - Small Pets - Science

The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.

The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.

He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do.

N'kisi's remarkable abilities feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine.

N'kisi is believed to be one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world.

About 100 words are needed for half of all reading in English, so if N'kisi could read he would be able to cope with a wide range of material.

Read the BBC News article

Hear (or read) an excerpt of N'kisi the parrot talking with his teacher, Aimee

My Parrot has his own phone conversations as to not be left out

When my phone rings, Dusty, my African Grey, says hello before I even get a chance. Then he goes about mumbling words in different tones. He does say, "Yep, Uh-huh, okay, talk to you later, bye". Then the beep of hanging up, then the click of the phone closing. He also has some sort of memory recall from his past owners who owned a dog name "Cougar". In the mornings he will whistle and yell "Cougar, come here boy, come on". How amazing. I haven't counted the number of words he says, but the counting is prompting me to recall them and add to it with his new sounds. Such as burping....Hee Hee!

African grey study

There was a study done awhile back.. hmm, probably going on about 15-20 years now, that the parrot could identify shapes and colors and so forth and was communicating nicely. They used an African Grey as well.

One has to wonder if it's slightly easier to teach a parrot, than to teach another type of animal, simply because they have the ability to communicate more effectively (that is, in a manner *we* more easily understand), whereas other animals' communication efforts may not be as readily seen or understood by us?

My mother's parrot definitely knows some words and knows their meanings. He meows when he sees our cats, says "bad dog" when he sees a dog.. uses cookie and water relating to his food and water dishes, although sometimes interchanges them. He calls my sister "heather" and me "eric" and my mother (his owner) "gramma" or "gra-ga" which is what my nephew used to call her. If he's being loud and you tell him "shhh, baby's sleeping" he starts saying the exact same things in a whisper (which is really funny at times).

I think these studies are really interesting. Parrots are very cool and have really good reasoning abilities, I think.


What an amazing accomplisment. So very interesting. Research like this might lead to humans having to redifine thing we always thought we knew...
Well, actually, I always firmly believed that at least both dogs and cats has a sense of humor...Ours sure seem to laugh both with us and at us ;o)
Why not birds too? Parrots are highly intelligent after all standards. The crows seem to enjoy teasing dogs and so do the ravens from the forest next door.


trainer@caninesinaction.com's picture


I read a longer article elsewhere, but didn't save the link.... This is some really amazing data. Some of the bird's responses are just eerie! And he speaks (and invents extemporaneously) better than many humans I know...!

Laura &

  • Ascomannis Laevatein YTT RL1 CD-H (www.clickertraining.com/blog/179)
  • Inky (couch dog!)
BlueHairBob's picture

My parrot amazes me

I do think my parrot may be telling jokes when he asks "What's the kitty say - MEOW", but when we ask him, he answers, "WOOF WOOF" - but only some times. I will also hear him stiiting on his cage practicing saying the names of family members. He taunts the dog.

He doesn't have 950 words yet, but he does add more evey week. Parrots are fun for lots of reasons. Not all talk, but the ones that do talk can be very interactive.