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Burped Ps

To mimic human speech, parrots get innovative
© Papooga CC View Large

Parrots are famous for their ability to mimic human voices. But to teach a parrot all the sounds of human language is actually really challenging. They might not have the right anatomy to replicate the sound faithfully, but they can usually improvise.

Hear the full episode from our friends at Twenty Thousand Hertz.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote® and Twenty Thousand Hertz

Burped Ps

Written by Dallas Taylor and Mark Bramhill

DT: This is BirdNote.

[PARROT “POLLY WANNA CRACKER”]

DT: Parrots are famous for their ability to mimic human voices. But to teach a parrot all the sounds of human language is actually really challenging. Doctor Irene Pepperberg is a Harvard professor who studies interspecies communication — and works with African Grey Parrots:

IP: There's lots of muscles and lots of things they have to learn to control. I mean think about going Ah versus Ee or if you're learning French you have to learn their French, "aaahaahaa" and learn how to make that deep R sound in your throat, so they have to learn all of those.

DT: Some words are especially hard for Irene’s birds. They might not have the right anatomy to replicate the sound faithfully, but they can usually improvise.

IP: For something like a Pa with lips, imagine saying Pa without lips. The bird has to actually learn how to use esophageal speech to sort of burp it.

[Parrot speech inc ‘peekaboo’ ‘I’m a happy birdy’ from 1:55]

DT: Today’s episode is an excerpt from the podcast I host. It’s called Twenty Thousand Hertz, and it’s a show about the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. We just ran a whole episode on birdsong — so, come take a gander. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Just search for “Twenty Thousand Hertz,” all spelled out. I’m Dallas Taylor.

[MORE PARROT SPEECH]

###

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Dallas Taylor

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   May 2019

ID#  sound-24-2019-05-31   sound-24

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