Birds talk or sing

Ornithology : Why can parrots talk?

A clever fellow, this African gray parrot. He escaped near Tokyo in May of this year, but was brought back to the living room after wandering around for a long time. "Yosuke Nakamura." The bird knew the name of its owner and his address.

In this country, budgies and co. Especially learn sentences like "You fool!" Or "Get out of here, you stink!". They wear their hearts on their tongues and we shamelessly exploit their social behavior.

Parrots are sociable. Most of them live with their partner in larger groups and communicate with one another using a variety of sounds. Unlike songbirds, they don't have very melodic voices. While male songbirds have to sing beautifully to attract females, parrot birds call or chatter.

When a young parrot joins a group, it learns its slang, but retains certain idiosyncrasies. "In this way, parrots can recognize individual individuals by their sounds and at the same time hear which group they belong to," says Gabriel Beckers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen. This adaptation to the sounds of their conspecifics is probably one of the reasons that they imitate the human voice in captivity. But how do you do it?

When we sing or speak, the vocal cords in the larynx vibrate to produce sound. The birds' vocal heads, the syrinx, sit lower. You sing with full heart. In the region where your windpipe splits into two branches, there are vibrating membranes whose tension can be changed by muscles. Some songbirds can use their vocal organs in the right and left branches independently and sing in two voices.

"Parrots have a simple vocal organ with fewer muscle groups," says Beckers. “But they have an extraordinarily thick tongue.” Just as humans form many sounds with the help of the tongue by guiding the tip of the tongue or the edge of the tongue to certain points of articulation, parrots also move their tongues when speaking. You can articulate yourself with a special flick of the tongue and therefore parrot us. "Where is my Hansi?" Or a little more intelligent: "Yosuke Nakamura."

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