Umbrella cockatoos are known for their dramatic plumage and delightful personalities.
Many prospective parrot owners that I talk to are curious about these sweet birds.
They especially want to know how trainable they are.
The umbrella cockatoo is quite intelligent, and they have a great sense of humor.
They also bond extremely closely with their owners, loving to cuddle and spend time learning from their chosen human.
Let’s get straight to the most common question I am asked about these beautiful birds.
Can umbrella cockatoos talk?
Yes! Umbrella cockatoos can learn to talk. On average, the umbrella cockatoo can learn about 50 words or short phrases. However, umbrella cockatoos are not known for their precise mimicry. Often their words will sound rough or unclear. They likely will not learn how to clearly pronounce words and may not be consistent in their speech.
Talking is not a consistent behavior for umbrella cockatoos, and many will only learn a few words or never learn to talk at all.
On the other hand, some owners report their cockatoos speaking entire sentences.
In the end, it comes down to the individual bird.
Bringing an umbrella cockatoo into your family is a big decision.
They form very close bonds with their owners, requiring a significant amount of time and attention.
While they may learn to talk, their charming nature and tendency to form close relationships is the primary reason most owners choose an umbrella cockatoo.
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How well can umbrella cockatoos learn to talk?
Umbrella cockatoos are quite clever and can absolutely learn to talk.
However, keep in mind that they will not develop the same extensive vocabulary as an African Grey might.
If you are looking for a bird that will be an excellent talker, the umbrella cockatoo might not be for you.
In the wild, umbrella cockatoos communicate with screeches and hisses.
These louder vocalizations are very effective for communicating across long distances but are not well suited for mimicry.
Because the umbrella cockatoo does not naturally mimic much in the wild it isn’t a behavior that comes as naturally to them in captivity.
How do I teach an umbrella cockatoo to talk?
Because speaking is not the most natural behavior for an umbrella cockatoo training one to speak will require a lot of patience.
But don’t give up!
Many birds learn to speak and acquire a decent vocabulary.
Whatever the end result, the process of teaching your bird will provide lots of stimulating interaction and fun for your cockatoo.
It will also teach your bird to work with and focus on you.
Speak directly with your cockatoo, using slow and clear speech.
Do this in a distraction-free environment and make sure that you reward your bird for focusing on you.
Repeat the same word and pair it with an action.
For example, you might say “hello!” while you wave to the bird.
Even when you’re not doing formal training you should continue to talk consistently with your bird.
The more speech they hear the better they will be at mimicking human sounds.
Keep your speech relatively simple and make sure that they feel included, even if you’re doing something else.
Give your cockatoo lots of time.
It might take weeks or even months for your bird to pick up new vocabulary.
Remember that you’re teaching your cockatoo to mimic sounds that are not at all natural to it!
Cockatoos often learn to mimic other sounds as well.
Laughter is perhaps the most common for them to pick up.
They can also learn to mimic common sounds like a phone ringing or a microwave beep.
Don’t be disappointed if your cockatoo never picks up much speech.
It is not an indicator of intelligence or willingness.
Your bird is not being “bad”.
Whether an umbrella cockatoo talks or not simply comes down to the individual.
Are umbrella cockatoos loud?
As mentioned above, in the wild umbrella cockatoos tend to call across great instances.
This means that they have a very loud scream and will use it often!
Umbrella cockatoos are definitely not well suited for apartments.
Cockatoo squawks and screeches communicate a wide range of needs.
Umbrella cockatoos form very close bonds with their owners and may scream out of frustration or loneliness when left alone.
Your bird may also simply be shrieking out of joy or excitement!
Over time you will come to learn to read your bird’s body language and vocalizations.
Umbrella cockatoos also love to chat and call out to their owners.
This is why talking with them is so important.
Even if they don’t learn specific words, they will feel engaged and included if you continue to chat back with them.
Another common sound is the distinctive cockatoo hiss.
Cockatoos hiss when they are afraid or territorial.
They will also likely stand their crest up, so you will be able to identify when your bird is feeling afraid or threatened.
While you should comfort your bird in this moment, keep in mind that a threatened bird may become defensive.
Are umbrella cockatoos easy to train?
Umbrella cockatoos are highly intelligent, so good training is very important so that they become well-behaved, safe pets.
They are very trainable birds, but keep in mind that high intelligence must be channeled positively so that they don’t learn bad habits.
These birds have a generally sweet and cuddly nature and will benefit from a holistic training regime from early on.
Once your bird has all the basic socialization and safety training down, you can start to teach your cockatoo tricks!
Compared to talking, umbrella cockatoos learn many basic tricks much more quickly.
Keep training sessions to about 15 minutes long and then give their attention a break.
They can learn to lay down, retrieve toys, and shake hands.
Provide your umbrella cockatoo with lots of toys to learn with as well.
For example, they will love to play with a ball on the floor, swing on ladders, and play peek-a-boo.
These humorous, loveable birds can learn many tricks and games.
While they may learn to talk, consider it to be one of many possible tricks that your umbrella cockatoo may learn, not an inevitable behavior.
These birds have much to offer and are sure to make a wonderful family member, with or without speech.