I had two questions when I first heard a parrot mimic a human. Why and how right now the jury is still out on why parrots are so well adapted to mimicking external sounds.
Unlike songbirds, parrots don’t come hardwired, for a specific language like humans. Parrots are flexible and they’re able to learn dialects ,other species’ languages and even nonliving noises in their environment. Some proposed ideas on why they mimic others include, it’s a sign of physical and neurological fitness to impress a mate, it helps them identify where a parrot is from.
Sometimes I want to go for the local girl or maybe they want to steer clear the locals and go for a foreigner and it helps a mated pair locate each other over the ruckus of the rainforest. Scientists in the wild, are continuing to study parrot behavior in captivity and an allow for more clues on why this ability is being selected for and I get so excited every time new discoveries are made because I think parrot localizations are super interesting.
For example, Alex the African Grey parrot and Irene Pepperberg made leaps and bounds in furthering the studies on parrot communication concept of understanding and creativity. So far, scientists haven’t documented any parrot in the wild mimicking anything other than parrot sounds but parrot language.
In the wild, it is still super fascinating. A great example is when Carlberg did the very first study on wild parrots, learning their names instead of having it genetically encoded. Many birds have names for themselves.
Think of a songbird that’s boisterously singing a song over and over shouting to potential mates and rival males “I’m Gilbert, I’m here, Gilbert is here.” But, what Carlberg found was that, green roughed parrot let’s not only know their own name, which they probably got from their parents, but they also know the names of other parrots too. Studies are still being conducted on why parrots mimic. But, all the new research seems very promising.
How do parrots mimic?
Parrots can make almost as many noises as humans can make. However, parrots can combine two sounds to create vocalizations, that humans can’t mimic. That’s because parrots don’t use the same muscles to create sound, that mammals do. Instead of using their larynx, like humans, they use their styrinx
What makes this so special is that it’s located at the very bottom of the trachea, where it splits into the two bronchi. Because of this, fork birds are able to control two separate windpipes to create two different noises at the same time pretty neat.
They can also use this Anatomy to create continuous vocalizations which as humans, we need to pause to inhale a pair. It can be making sound through one side of their syrinx and at the same time open the other side for a little breath. Some people think that parrots can’t mimic sounds that require lips. But, that’s not true. They can absolutely make the B and P sounds and it can purr mmm without the use of lips.
They can also make that noise, without the use of teeth. So, parrots are amazing and creating noises with their specialized syrinx. Parrots are basically better at vocalizing than we are.