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Amazing Talent: Why Can Parrots Talk?

Parrots are among the most intelligent birds in the world. Some species, such as the Kea, can even use tools and puzzles. Parrots are famous for their ability to imitate sounds and to communicate about them. But how do they do that?


Birds with foreign language skills: Pure anatomical prerequisites for speech are breathing apparatus, larynx with vocal folds and mouth. The colorful exotics, however, lack vocal folds. Instead, they have their own organ for the formation of sounds: the so-called syrinx. It consists of thin membranes, which lie near the crotch of the bronchial tubes. It is embedded in an airbag, which also serves as a resonance body. When air from the bronchial tubes flows into the throat through the air tube, the thin membrane begins to vibrate and produce sounds. This mechanism resembles that of the vocal folds in humans. For the countless variations of these notes, however, the unusually large and strong tongue of the parrots is responsible. With it the birds modulate individual sounds - almost like us.


Some species of animals have a definite tone sequence. Examples of this are the "Kikeriki" of the cock or the "cuckoo" of the cuckoo. Other birds, on the other hand, can learn different melodies. Parrots, but also ravens or starlings are able to imitate strange sounds. This innate talent probably serves the social interaction - it could not be clarified yet. Since this ability extends to any sounds and sound sequences, parrots can also learn "foreign languages" like human lute. Then the imitation of the communication with the human replacement partner serves. The most powerful is the imitation of grape pests. But other species such as macaws, cockatoo, amazons, nymphs and budgies can learn to speak very well.
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