Parrots
 

Birds from the parrot family have been popular pets for thousands of years because of their ability to mimic human speech and their beautiful colors. In fact natives on all continents were found to have parrots as pets when visited by explorers.

The glorious Rainbow Lorikeets have been called the most beautiful parrots. Look at the photo gallery to your right to see why -- these pictures are definitely worth a thousand words. Like other parrots, they like being petted and scratched, something which is quite rare among birds.

But the title of the finest talking bird is held by the African Grey Bird. These birds can learn hundreds and sometimes thousands of words, and can imitate many other sounds like telephones and doorbells. The current record is held by Prudles, a male African Grey that had a vocabulary of 1000 words!

Another famous African Grey is Alex. Alex is famous for being able to use his vocabulary of 100 words to make requests and answer questions intelligently. For example, if shown a mix of blocks, balls and triangles in different colors, and asked how many green blocks there are, he can answer correctly. Alex showed that a parrot can be more than just an imitator; parrots can be trained to understand what they are saying, and make use of their memory and judgment.

Parrots’ affectionate nature and their long life span also contributed to their popularity. Some parrot species can live up to 80 years! A 107-year-old Blue and Gold Macaw parrot living in England still makes verbal attacks at the Nazis – repeating phrases she learned during WWII.

 

A large zoo usually showcases dozens of different parrots. Intersperse the following “talking points” throughout your tour.

G-d’s Human Parrots: Parrots are not the only birds that can mimic our speech. The Hill Mynahs are also particularly good talkers, and the crow, starling, and blue jay can also learn to say a few words.

But none of them come close to the speaking skills of a human being; they aren’t able to have a real conversation. In the words of Professor Irene Pepperberg, the expert who worked with the parrot Alex for more than 25 years: “you can’t interview them. They just don’t have the extent of communication we have.”

Yet it is far more amusing and entertaining to listen to a parrot say, “wanna showah” (VI want a shower”) than to hear a person communicating a brilliant thought.

For centuries, rabbis have used the “talking bird” phenomenon to explain why our “little” mitzvahs and prayers give so much pleasure to the Almighty. Children and adults often ask if G-d really cares about whether we pray and do little mitzvahs and acts of kindness. “What does He need it for,” they ask, “Doesn’t He have angels who can do a much better job than us?” “Actually,” others would add, “Forget the angels, G-d could do all these things Himself infinitely better!”

The answer is that our little actions, like parrots who speak with their walnut-sized brains, cause far greater pleasure to the Creator than the songs of the angels, or the infinite activities that G-d does Himself.

Keep your feathers in good condition: When you watch the parrots in their cages they seem to be fooling around and pricking each other with their curved hooked bills. Really, they are grooming, or preening, each other in hard-to-reach areas.

Birds preen themselves with their beaks to keep their feathers in top-notch shape, and to keep them free from tiny insects which harm their bodies. When it comes to parts of their bodies that their bills can’t reach, they are helped by another parrot, usually their mate.

Like many birds, most parrots have an oil gland located on their back just above the base of the tail. The bird rubs its bill and head over the oil gland and then rubs the oil onto its feathers. This helps clean and waterproof the feathers, so that they don’t get soaked in the rain.

What can we learn from this? Just like parrots help out each other in the art of preening, people can help each other improve with words of encouragement and good influence.

King Solomon said: “At all times let your clothes be clean, and let your head lack no oil.” He was not talking about ordinary garments and ordinary oil. He meant a person’s good deeds, which enhance a person’s inner appearance, and a good name which gives a person a good “fragrance.” Fine feathers make fine birds, and fine deeds make fine people.

Just like birds spend a good deal of the day preening themselves, we should strive to improve ourselves every day, and not postpone it for later – so that when Moshiach comes he does not find us unprepared. The Talmud gives a parable that illustrates this thought:

A king invited his servants to a banquet, but did not state the time; the wise among them dressed and were ready, standing in front of the palace, because they said: "In a king's house nothing is missing. Perhaps the banquet will take place today." The fools, however, went about their business, saying: "Can a banquet be given without preparation?"

Suddenly the king called in his retainers to the banquet. The wise went in appropriately dressed, while the fools went in in their working clothes. The king was well pleased with the wise, and angry with the fools, and said: "Those that are prepared and attired for the banquet shall sit down, eat, drink, and be merry!"

Patience and sincerity: S. Wakai, who graciously gave us the sound clips on this page, learned this lesson in human relations from her experience with parrots: “Patience and sincerity speaks to the heart of any creature, no mattered how troubled they are or sharp a beak they have!”

 
 

 

Listen to this happy parrot talk (can you guess what he is saying?)

Watch a video of Parrots

 



There are more than 300 species of birds in the parrot family

In the wild, some species of parrots can fly 500 miles a day in search of food!

250,000 parrots are imported to the US annually, to be sold as pets.

A parrot that costs $15 in Mexico can sometimes cost a staggering $10,000 in US pet stores. This is due to a Mexican ban on parrot exports.

Parrots use their toes to climb and to handle food, similar to the way we use our hands. Parrots’ toes have a remarkably firm grip, because their toes are zygodactyl with two toes facing frontward, and two facing backward.

Recently, scientists from Indiana University confirmed that parrots talk by using their tongues, just like us. As the air moves up the parrot’s mouth, the parrot bobs its tongue back and forth to change the shape of its mouth. This causes the tone of the sound to change.

The African Grey Parrots can even mimic the accent of the talker they are imitating.

Parent's Tip: Parrots can imitate human voices and other sounds so well that you cannot tell whether you are hearing the real sound or the parrot’s imitation. Ask your child to imitate different sounds, for example, the sound of a creaky door, or a car horn, or the sounds of different animals in the zoo.

 

According to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, King Solomon had parrots imported by ship from a distant country.

But did he really? We know from the Scriptures, that King Solomon imported tukkiyyim (parrots, in Modern Hebrew) from Tarshish. But according to the commentators and ancient translations, tukkiyyim is a reference to peacocks. In Tamil, an ancient language, togai or tokai also means peacocks.


Parrots make popular pets. In addition, scientist Irene Pepperberg has discovered that parrots are somewhat capable of the kind of thinking that until now, only humans were thought capable of. Her research has implications for understanding human brain and language development, and might ultimately become relevant in the field of education.