Parrots aren’t the only birds that can talk

Talking birds are birds that can mimic the speech of humans. There is debate within the scientific community over whether some talking parrots also have some cognitive understanding of the language. Birds have varying degrees of talking ability.

Hill mynahs

Hill mynahs (tropical members of the starling family of birds) are renowned for their ability to mimic the human voice. It has been claimed that the hill mynah is the best talking bird and the best mimic in the world.

Corvids

Several members of the corvids or crow family, such as ravens, can mimic human speech. The best talking crows may be the ones found in captivity at zoos and wildlife centers.

Starlings

European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are exceptional mimics, including human speech. Their ability at mimicry is so great that strangers have looked in vain for the human they think they have just heard speak.

Mockingbirds

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), as both the common and taxonomic names suggest, are mimickers of a great number of sounds. This includes human speech.

Lyrebirds

In Australia, lyrebirds are great mimics of many sounds, including the human voice. Lyrebirds have three syringeal muscles whereas most other songbirds have four. This could make the syrinx of the lyrebird more flexible. In a study comparing the sonograms of lyrebirds and Australian magpies during mimicking, the author stated that the mimicry of the lyrebird was “impressionistic” while that of the magpie was “realistic”.

Australian magpie

One hand-raised Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) developed the ability to mimic human speech, including words and phrases. This individual mimicked a large number of (non-human) sounds, but a third of all mimicked sounds were of human speech.