Do Parrots Have Vocal Chords?

Although parrots have been known to talk or mimic human speech, it is true that they do not have larynx with vocal chords.  Instead, these birds have syrinx (a distended portion of the trachea) Due to the way these creatures are equipped, sound is then accomplished by expelling air across the mouth of the bifurcated trachea.  Different sounds are then produced by changing the depth and shape of the trachea.  While many parrots have been known for mimicking human speech, the African Grey Parrots of all subspecies are known for their superiority in imitating sounds and human speech and have shown that some are even able to associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences.

The brain to body ratio of psittacines and corvines is actually comparable to that of higher primates and along with other birds such as crows and ravens, parrots are considered to be among the most intelligent of birds.  Some studies done in bird physiology have even helped us discover that the lower part of the avian brain is functionally similar to that of a human’s.  However, the question of why birds imitate human speech still remains unanswered.

Parrots are often taught to speak without understanding the meaning of the words.  The method most commonly used is to place a mirror between the parrot and the trainer.  The trainer, hidden by the mirror then utters words, and the parrot seeing his own reflection in the mirror enjoys the sight of “another parrot speaking” and begins to imitate all that is said by the trainer hiding behind the mirror.  Not only have parrots demonstrated intelligence through scientific testing of language using ability, but some species have even shown that they can be highly skilled when it comes to solving puzzles or using tools.

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