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paddismac
06-09-2016, 03:25 PM
Are there words/sounds from human speech that a parrot or other "talking" bird cannot make?

mrsmig
06-09-2016, 06:00 PM
I owned a succession of budgerigars (parakeets) when I was younger and I would say no. My family was large and boisterous and it was amazing to hear the budgies perform what we called "mob scenes" - repeating back multiple voices, whistles, singing, kissing noises, tongue clicks, raspberries, etc.

JeniferTidwell
06-09-2016, 06:30 PM
Voiced consonants are nearly impossible for beaks to make, especially "M" and "N." My father's long-deceased Amazon was named Max, and it always came out as "Wax" when he said it.

Some parrots can pronounce "R" and "L," and some can't. My own macaw, Charlie, has a Boston accent: "Chahhh-wie." And "Hewwo" instead of "Hello". On the other hand, my Eclectus pronounces "Hello" and "Pretty, pretty girl" with better diction than most humans.

R.Barrows
06-09-2016, 06:44 PM
I knew an African Grey once with quite a vocabulary. I couldn't say whether or not there were specific words or sounds that he couldn't make, but what he did say was perfectly pronounced. In addition to knowing quite a few phrases, he also had a perfect mimic of a lawn mower, a smoke alarm, and the bell from the microwave oven. When he spoke, he sounded very much like his owner. So much so that if you didn't know it was the bird you would assume it was his owner speaking. He lived with a Blue Macaw and Green parrot, neither of which spoke at all.

paddismac
06-09-2016, 06:49 PM
Thanks guys! It sounds as though, just like humans, each individual bird will have different capacities.

This is probably an issue of over-thinking on my part, but that's what I do best (hey, nothing wrong with being precise!). My "story bird" only needs to say a word or two throughout the entire novel, but as someone who has made a study of ventriloquism, I recognize the difficulties in pronouncing certain sounds without the use of the "correct" equipment to do so (namely the lips, which birds don't have!)

Brightdreamer
06-09-2016, 06:57 PM
Thanks guys! It sounds as though, just like humans, each individual bird will have different capacities.

This is probably an issue of over-thinking on my part, but that's what I do best (hey, nothing wrong with being precise!). My "story bird" only needs to say a word or two throughout the entire novel, but as someone who has made a study of ventriloquism, I recognize the difficulties in pronouncing certain sounds without the use of the "correct" equipment to do so (namely the lips, which birds don't have!)

IIRC, birds aren't even using vocal cords in the human sense to speak, so a lack of lips doesn't seem to be an issue. A human may not be the best comparison when considering what sounds a bird can or cannot make. (Anecdotally, "eye flashing" - the rapid widening and contracting of the pupil - is often considered a sign that a bird will be a "talker" and is paying attention.)

On the bird front, our African Gray has an odd and ever-shifting vocabulary. At one time, he often called for a "Laurie!" - when we don't know any Lauries and have never used the word. Some time later, I was out on on a walk and heard someone calling for Laurie, with the same inflection. We're in a suburban/rural area, but I'd estimate the distance as roughly 2 large blocks away - up another street, with a stretch of woods between, the voice inaudible to human ears from our place but evidently quite clear to the bird. (He also picked up "Scrabble!" somewhere... and we don't play.)

paddismac
06-09-2016, 07:29 PM
I'm sitting here giving myself a huge eye-roll right now at the lengths I'll go to procrastinate. (This thread being a case in point.) :rant:

My novel is fantasy, and my talking bird quite other-worldly. The fact is, he'd have no problem saying anything I threw at him in fourteen different languages simultaneously while playing "Yankee Doodle" on a flute. :e2shrug:

But I really appreciate all the info nonetheless!

Now, if someone will just give me a swift kick up the jacksie, I may be able to get back to work!!

Helix
06-12-2016, 07:46 AM
Lyrebirds are amazing mimics, although they do tend to jazz up their repertoire with all sorts of trills and warbles. I wouldn't be surprised if they could reproduce human voices were they presented with enough samples.