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How do parrots 'talk'? © Getty Images

How do parrots 'talk'?

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Polly wants a cracker... Our feathery friends learn from their flock.

Asked by: Henry Worrall, London

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In the wild, parrots live in flocks and they learn to copy the ‘catchphrases’ of their own flock, as a way of telling who belongs to the flock and who is an outsider. Scans show that parrot brains have a different structure from songbirds’, and this can help to explain why they’re so good at vocal learning. In captivity, alone in a cage, the only vocalisations available to parrots are human speech, so they naturally learn to imitate this instead.

How long do parrots live? © iStock

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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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