Monkeys are our closest biological relatives, and they can’t speak. But parrots don’t seem to have a problem at all.

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In 2016 researchers released a study with an incredible headline: monkey vocal tracts are speech-ready. It showed that monkeys are held back from speech not by their bodies, but by their brains. But if that’s the case, what’s the deal with birds?

Parrots are known for their ability to mimic human speech with incredible accuracy. It’s jarring to hear an animal so vastly different from us speaking our language. So how do they do it? Partially, neurology: parrots are wired for communication in ways other animals (including other birds) are not. But it’s largely physiology. Birds are uniquely equipped to make sounds, and this video will give you a basic overview of how that works.

Throughout reporting this piece I had several conversations with Dr. Irene Pepperberg – If you’re interested in the neurology of these birds, I highly recommend checking out her studies on African Grey parrots. I’ve linked to a few of them below:

Evidence for Conceptual Quantitative Abilities in the African Grey Parrot: Labeling of Cardinal Sets
Acquisition of the same/different concept by an African Grey parrot: Learning with respect to categories of color, shape, and material
Number Comprehension by a Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), Including a Zero-Like Concept

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    23 replies to "Why parrots can talk like humans"

    • Sebastian M

      I can't singing like a bird

    • CameroonKing 00

      That ened too soon

    • Blitznstitch2

      Cause birds are amazing

    • gallimead

      Just go round to my mother's. We have a parrot, that would make you blush.

    • MexicanTacos 07

      Finally a good vox video

    • meme youyou

      my iphone also has that. that is why it can talk back to me. "hey syrinx, what is the weather?"

    • gnilttbs

      2:48 None but one of those sounds were vowels. They were either diphthongs, that is, a sequence of two consecutive vowels in the same syllable, or a sequence of an approximant (more precisely a semivowel) and a vowel.

      3:06 Plosives do not, necessarily, require our lips. Bilabials (which may or may not be plosives) do. The [k] sound, for example, is a plosive, yet lip-rounding is quite irrelevant to its proper utterance.

    • sandcastlecollapsing

      Is it just me or did it really not answer the question? It explained how they use their vocal chords but not how they mimic our sound.

    • thenewtetrafish

      I wish my budgies could speak

    • Anna Firnen

      My cockatiel is a troll 😏. After spending a lot of time in a cage outdoors he learned how to sing like a blackbirds that roam our neighbourhood. I've seen many times confused female blackbirds looking for a male in my garden after the performance of the parrot 😂.

    • youcef pain

      DO MARRY ME

    • Hunter Heyman

      Understand human but only talks about English?

    • Judith Delgadillo Sanchez (227juddelg)

      My parrot won’t talk 😭😭

    • Victoria Powers

      Parrots are so smart

    • 5%LowBattery

      🗣Rural Juror

    • Alexcia Gordon

      My parrot curses too much

    • discoHR

      This explains why my TAG can produce two sounds at the same time. Makes sense now.

    • Nathan Vanderpool Gaming

      They are created by the FBI

    • Jannib Andelo Bayutas

      Baby parrots look like teen penguins.

    • Dalton Magee

      I love learning about bird law!

    • SanicBoom _

      If I had a parrot, I would teach it a naughty word

    • Mr Blueberry

      Why does my parot swear at me 👀

    • Peace and Balance

      Trapped, alone, confined, restricted

      Body: weak.. mind: afflicted..

      Removed from nature,

      the ethereal is here

      No escape from the cage,

      no escape from the fear

      in forced proximity,

      It talks, it sings

      But 1 of them's guilty

      of stealing their wings

      with a purpose removed

      now obsessed with reflection

      all that can soothe

      is the humans affection

      but the human is cursed

      with a similar fate

      so the voice makes it worse

      until it is too late,

      the bird's in it's cage

      stagnated with vanity

      displayed on a stage

      for the humans insanity…

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