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  • SCOTT SIMMONS of MASSACHUSETTS reads Bird Talk magazine to his Congo Grey, Cosmo. They look at and talk about the many pictures, too; and Cosmo LOVES it! He calms down, pays attention, and really shows that he understands.
  • Glenn Morgan of California’s (BeBop’s human) says, “The more time one spends with his Grey, the better it gets. They need you. Talk TO them, not at them.”
  • Tasha of Missouri has found that her Grey, Kia, learns better when she takes the time to teach her parrot. She doesn’t like tapes, but learns quickly with human interaction. Tasha says, “Lose the tapes and talk directly to your bird like he/she is a feathered person.”
  • Kathy Lioness of Wisconsin believes the best way to build a Grey’s potential is to use human baby toys that make the bird think. It frightens them at first but they learn quickly. Use the see and say toys. Develop a game of what you’re doing. When your bird asks, show him/her. Magic loves his baby toys.
  • Akeeb of India gives Arrow a kiss on the head and says “hi.” Arrow responds with the kissing sound and “Hi.”
  • Colleen of Virginia says that Cranberry is very attached to her. He tends to bite other people, so she taught her to tell people when she’s going to bite. She explained the concept several times to say NO when she doesn’t want to be picked up. If that doesn’t work, then she says OUCH and bites.  
  • MERILYN B. HOFFMAN of SOUTH CAROLINA starts whistling and talking the moment she comes home. She says it really gets them going!  
  • JUSTIN WHITE of LOUISIANA suggests that you use “expressions” when you speak. Ask questions and get your Grey to respond to what you’re saying. This works well with JORDAN.
  • Generally, African Greys begin really talking between 12 and 18 months. Many may say their first words at much earlier ages, but the real talking and chattering generally starts later. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t be teaching your Grey until then. From the moment it comes home with you, start talking to it.
  • Talk to your Grey about everything you’re doing....explain everything to it, as if talking to a young child. For example, when you take it from its cage to its perch, say "Want perch." Eventually it may be able to tell you when it wants the perch.
  • Teach by association. Use the same phrase with the same task. It would be very helpful to begin talking about things that may eventually help your Grey have a little control over its life. For example, by teaching it to request for a certain food, or to be brought to a certain location, it will eventually be able to request things and feel a little more in control. It should be noted, however, that in the beginning it may begin requesting something over and over and over for the attention and game of it. AND it is a good idea to bring your Grey to that place or give it that item as often as possible, every time it is requested in the beginning, no matter how obnoxious it seems, so that your Grey has the idea that its request REALLY does have results.
  • Greys are social creatures who learn to talk more easily in interactive situations. They tend to tune out recordings that are played either too often or for longer than fifteen minutes. If you use recordings, reinforce the words you’re teaching by repeating them to your Grey. Further, recordings are much more effective if you’re in the room interacting with your Grey and the tape. Additionally, many Greys appear to like cartoons and children’s shows, but again, the more you’re with them during these activities, the more they will learn.
  • The more your Grey is around you and in situations, such as the family room, where it is around lots of human interaction, it will learn to speak more cognitively.

  • In the wild, Greys maintain communication through contact calls when they are apart. You may want to play a game with it and vocalize back and forth when you’re in another room. But of course, before you leave the room to play this game, let it know what you’re doing. It would also be helpful to create your own "specific lines" to let it know that you’re leaving the room, such as "Be right back," "Bye, bye store" and so on.
  • While teaching Merlin Tewillager to talk, I learned that she was drawn to "emotion" words, or words that had some kind of playful energy to them. For example, Merle never learned to say "I love you," until I added "so much," which made it a fun phrase to work on. Her first word was "WOW!"which had so much energy and could be played with in so many ways. You may want to play with your voice, such as saying hello at many different octaves.
  • In the beginning, don’t push your bird to learn too many phrases at once, but to work well with a few, so that it can focus on the tonality of what it’s copying. For example, Merlin uses a "computer-type" voice because she learned so many phrases in the beginning that she didn’t spend as much time learning how to replicate my exact voice.
  • Our Greys tend to reflect our styles. If one talks in a whisper, it will probably whisper. If one doesn’t talk much, it will probably be a "quiet" bird. If one is energetic, it will probably be active. If one talks a lot, it will probably be a chatter box. There are always exceptions, however.
  • Some Greys learn to talk earlier while others may not develop until as old as two years old, and some others may not even learn to talk at all. Just be patient and talk with them a lot. Once they start, many will become motor mouths; and late developers don’t necessarily talk less than early learners, once they get started. It depends more on the personality of the bird, your relationship and how you teach it.
  • The Winter 2000 issue of The Grey Play Round Table Magazine will be focused on talking, and will provide an in-depth analysis of our current talking survey. Please participate in the survey, so that we can understand in more depth, the talking techniques that work best.
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