Talking Peach-Faced Lovebird
Special thanks to Crystal Akerley for contributing this abstract to Lakeside Aviaries.
How I Taught My Lovebird to Talk.
By Crystal Akerley
Pikachou, my lutino peachface lovebird, came to live with my husband and I at 8 weeks old in December 2003. We started her off in a cockatiel starter cage with plenty of toys and a little green sand pail for a hiding place. Shortly after this time I started teaching Pikachou, or Pika, how to talk.
Since my husband works out of the home, while I manage our apartment building at home, I have been able to spend most of my day with Pika. When Pika was a baby bird, I would talk and sing to her throughout the day. The common phrases that I would repeat, as seen in the video, were those such as “Pretty Birdie” and “Pretty Pika.” I kept saying these phrases each time I entered and left Pika’s room. When I wasn’t in Pika’s room, however, I do the “dog call” whistle, as well as the whistle men use when looking at attractive females.
After repeating this spoken routine for about a month, Pika began to use the language I spoke to her. The first word she learned was the “come here” dog whistle. The interesting and funny part was that whenever we were not in the room, she would call us and, of course, we would come as commanded. After that word, she began to say “Pretty Birdie.” Pika eventually said other words, such as “Gimmee Kissee,” as time went on.
Although I had heard that some lovebirds can talk, I never thought Pika could. The fact that lovebirds could talk, however, inspired me to work diligently to get her to talk. In addition, my friends, who own lovebirds, did not believe me when I told them about Pika’s talking ability. Pika didn’t make it easy for me when I tried to prove this claim. She wouldn’t talk for anyone except my husband and I. As time passed, however, she forgot that she had to hide her abilities and spoke. The first person Pika spoke for was the woman who bred her. This moment astounded all of us because she said new things, such as “Pretty Pika” and whistle men make when looking at attractive females.
My husband also contributed to teaching Pika by allowing her to sit on his shoulder and talk to him, while he whistled phrases, such as “Pretty Pika.” Pika would put her beak between his lips and shout to him when he wouldn’t pay attention to her, which was hilarious to watch. When she bathed she used his over grown mustache to preen herself by rubbing against his cheeks and the bottom of his chin. After she was done, she preened him too.
Since Pika is such an over achiever, I taught her how to take pride her in work. I would stand at her cage and asked her to bow, while I bent forward to show her how I bowed. During this same time I would say, “Pretty Pika.” This trick only took about two weeks to learn. The only problem with the way she performs this trick, however, is that she tilts her head backwards, making it appear as though as she bows backwards. We, of course, praised her on how she is such a smart bird.
Does being a male or female matter to talking ability? I don’t know, but I will run you through how we found out about Pika’s sex. When Pika turned 24 weeks old, she began to exhibit mating behaviors, such as mating with her cage toys and a waffle ball she used to fetch. We believe that this waffle ball had become her “mate.” We started to wonder if she was female due to all the tucking spit balls of paper all about her backside. While contemplating this, we once again determined she must be a he because the paper wasn’t being properly cut or tucked. She just chewed little balls and glued them to herself wherever she could reach. She eventually became very proficient at this though and was cutting strips of paper at lightening speed and tucking them in her wings. Her wings would be so heavily laden with paper that when she attempted to get it back to her cage they would all fall out. Sometimes she arrived there with only one or two hard won pieces to put in her box. ( By this time we had removed the green pail and replaced it with a Kleenex box). At 26 weeks of age we finally knew for sure that Pika was a female….she laid 4 eggs and was a very proud momma even though the eggs were not fertile due to her not having a partner. Pika laid on these eggs for 3 weeks, only coming out to eat, chew more paper and have short visits with us. She started doing her toilette in one spot in her cage instead of all over the place. This was about the time that I had to stop having her sit on my shoulder as she had become more aggressive and territorial since having the eggs. I have a mechanical mitral valve in my heart and the ticking resembles her bell toy…this would cause her to attack my neck to try to get at what she thought was her bell ball.
( Still haven’t gotten Pika to say Gimmee Kissee).
Approximately 2 months ( July) after laying the first 4 eggs Pika once again went into breeding mode. There was no nest box for her as we had hoped it would hold her off having more. This didn’t work, she would grab anything chewable while out of her cage and absolutely insisted on having another batch…we placed her box in the cage and sure enough 4 eggs again. She sat these eggs for 3 weeks as well. At the three week mark I would start removing one egg at a time every other day. ( I drained and kept them all like a proud mother of course). After this batch of eggs we removed her box, all chewing material, toys that were her “mate” and swapped old toys for new. I also changed the position of her cage. This worked very well until December 2004. One more batch of 4 eggs. She is still trying to breed and wants badly to have more eggs but so far ( Feb 2005) she is holding off.
I cover her cage at night, usually around 9 pm , as I approach her cage with the sheet she knows it is bedtime and starts to make a ruckus. One night about 6 months ago, as I was going to cover her, she decided to bribe me into leaving it off for awhile by saying…..finally…..Gimmee Kissee !! She always made the kissie sounds before but this was the first time she said it so she got to stay up a bit longer! Now every time I cover her she says Gimmee Kissee , Pretty Pika, kiss, kiss.
I’m not sure if she actually knows what she is saying or if she is just mimicking words….but she seems to know how to suit the words to the actions and this is good enough for me to think she is a very smart birdie! The expression ‘Bird brain’ certainly does not fit these wonderful birds. My opinion is that male/female isn’t an issue when teaching a bird to talk; you just have to be very persistent and consistent. Praise them loudly and happily even when they don’t do what you want them to do as they will associate praise with ‘just paying attention’ as well as a reward for doing what you ask them to do.
Pikachou was obtained from a friend of Crystal, Pikachou’s mother, when Pikachou was eight weeks old. Crystal writes, “I did not know, at the time, if she was a male or female. Some of her actions indicated male sex so we assumed male.” Crystal was taken by surprise when Pikachou was 26 weeks (May 2004) and laid 4 eggs. Considering this is the first piece of direct evidence regarding talking lovebirds, information on whether sex influences a lovebird’s speech is unavailiable yet.
According to Crystal:
“She is bonded to my husband and I won't handle her as she got very aggresive after having the second clutch of eggs. I also have a mechanical heart valve that makes a ticking sound that she can hear. She thinks it is one of her bells and will attack my throat to try to get at it :o(.....but she loves my hubby and seldom bites him. When I first brought Pika home I would continually say Pretty Pika throughout the day as I am a work at home apartment manager and have lots of time. My husband would whistle Pretty Birdie and she would stick her beak in his lips and copy him. She will also do this and "yell" at him if she is displeased LOL. So just continuous repetetive phrases over time and most will learn. A tape recorder going would be a good thing to use as a teaching tool.”
I think that because Pika heard her favorite person, which is Crystal’s husband, say the words that Crystal said made Pika want to learn the words. So perhaps that should be tested.