Parrots – Do they really talk?

Parrots ParrotsWalk into the home of a parrot owner and you will likely hear a raucous “Hello” from the colourful bird. Just what is it about parrots that allow them to talk?




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Parrots, also know as psittacines, “talk” as a form of communication. Parrots in the wild will learn to vocalize by mimicking the sounds of their parents and the other birds in its social group. However, a parrot in a home surrounded by human communication will view the humans as its social circle and will naturally try to communicate with them by mimicking the sounds it hears.

Unlike humans, parrots do not have vocal cords. Instead, they learn to control the movement of the muscles in their throat to direct the airflow in a way to reproduce certain tones and sounds—sometimes even human sounds! With careful training, parrots can be trained to speak words, sing, and whistle. However when they speak, they are merely mimicking words. They do not understand what they are saying at all.

So, don’t be fooled by the parrot which shrieks “Hello” when you come in, it might say the same thing when you leave!

There is no question that some parrots show signs of intelligence!

An example is the African Grey parrot named Alex. Alex can associate human words with meanings, and intelligently identify shapes, colour, number, etc. It can also produce human speech. This video below shows the intelligence of this bird!

 Alex the African Grey Parrot!

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Watch this intelligent parrot!


‘Can parrots really talk?’ URL:

‘Why do parrots talk?’ by Nicole Hoelscher, eHow Contributing Writer, 30 May 2009. URL:

“How do parrots speak so clearly and mimic so well?” By URL:

Roy & Silo – Gay penguins, no i’m serious, they’re gay


American idol Adam Lambert recently openly admitted to himself being gay on national television.   While some commended him for being open about it, many others condemned him for his sexual orientation.  In today’s society, homosexuality is still considered taboo in many countries.  Little do people know that homosexual and bisexual activities have been ongoing in the animal kingdom. 

Meet Roy and Silo (above), two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo.  They have been inseperable for six years since 1998, openly displaying homosexual behavior.  Together, they have displayed classic penguin pair-bonding behavior such as the entwining of necks, mutual preening, flipper flapping, etc.  You may find it hard to believe, but yes, they also had sex, while ignoring potential female mates.  Together, they raised a child, obtained from a surrogate mother penguin.   While the pair has already broken up in 2005, zoos from all around the world have been finding similar patterns of homosexuality in their penguins as well.  A German zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, claims that their two male penguins, Z and Vielpunkt have hatched a chick and are now rearing it together as its adoptive parents. 

Homosexual or bisexual behavior is not an uncommon observation amongst animals.  James Owen from National Geographic mentioned in his article that birds do it too, so do beetles, sheeps, orang utans, dolphins, fruit bats, etc.  Such behavior to be seems extremely intriguing.  I would usually presume that male animals will be on the lookout for female animals for mating purposes, and not male animals.  I tried doing more research on the topic and have found out possible reasons for such behavior.  Some animals appear to go through a homosexual phase before they become fully mature.  Others form temporal sexual relationships for social reasons – to establish lifelong bonds within their kind. 

It is interesting to point out that despite such behavior being common amongst animals, they have only  been documented relatively recently due to zoologists fear of stepping into a political mindfield of homosexuality and hetrosexuality.

The Gay Penguins of Central Park Zoo


“Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate” by J. Owen.  National Geographic News, 23rd July 2004. URL: (accessed on 2nd April 2010)

“New Love Breaks Up a 6-Year Relationship at the Zoo” by J. Miller. New York Times, 24th September 2005. URL: (accessed on 3rd April 2010)

“The Gay Penguins of the Central Park Zoo” by M. Balan, 19th August 2006. URL: (accessed on 4th April 2010)

M. Renner, J. Valencia, S. David, D. Saez & C. Orlando, 1998. “Sexing of Adult Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica using Morphometrics”. Journal of Colonial Waterbirds. 21(3): 444-449 (accessed from Jstor on 4th April 2010)

Bats practise oral sex

Fruit bats copulating
“Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time” by PLoS ONE. URL:

Oral sex, also known as fellatio, was thought to be performed by only a few species of animals such as the juvenile bonobos (Pan paniscus). However, short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) is now known as the first adult animal species to have such fellatio habits as well. Scientists at the Guangdong Entomological Institute in Guangzhou, China, found out the interesting behavioural trait by coincidence when they were initially observing bats’ behaviours such as grooming or the construction of tents from Chinese fan-palm leaves.

“We did not expect fellatio in fruit bats at the beginning,” said researcher Libiao Zhang, a biologist at the Guangdong Entomological Institute in Guangzhou, China. “We were also surprised at how often it occurred.”

The fellatio habit in fruit bats has been observed to be a regular occurrence. Of the 20 observed mating bat pairs, 70% of the females performed fellatio on the males in which the females would often lick the shaft of the males’ penis during penetration. Intriguingly, this action was observed during 14 of 20 copulation. The licking lasted for an average of 19 seconds, or roughly one-twelfth the average time of copulation. On top of that, the male did not withdraw from the female during fellation. In fact, it was observed that the act of penetration lasted longer: fellating females mated for an average of 4 minutes, twice as long as the other non-fellating females.

Although the only proven fact is that fellatio leads to longer copulation in fruit bats, the scientists speculate a few reasons behind this occurrence. One reason could be that fellatio may prevent transmission of sexual diseases, based on the antimicrobial properties of the bats’ saliva. Another reason could be that fellation may facilitate sperm transport and stimulate female glandular secretions, thus increasing the likelihood of fertilization.

Nevertheless, regardless the reasons for the act, it is ensuring to know that while the male may enjoy the act, the female ultimately benefits!

Links to secondary sources

Nancy Shefferly & Paul Fritz, 2005.  Male chimpanzee behavior in relation to female ano-genital swelling. American Journal of Primatology, 26(2): 119-131

Frans B. M. de Waal, 1988. The Communicative Repertoire of Captive Bonobos(Pan paniscus), Compared to That of Chimpanzees. Behaviour, 106(3): 183-251


“Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time” by Tan M, Jones G, Zhu G, Hong T, et al. PLoS ONE, 28 October 2009. URL: (accessed on 17 March 2010)

“Scientists discover that bats practice oral sex ” by Jeremy Hance., 28 October 2009. URL: (accessed on 17 March 2010)

“A Little Fellatio Goes a Long Way” by  Cassandra Brooks.  ScienceNOW, 30 October 2009. URL: (accessed  on 18 March 2010)