Why are parrots apparently able to talk?

What makes parrots able to talk?Budgerigars, conures, amazons, african greys or macaws, one of the most endearing features of parrots is there inherent ability to imitate a wide variety sounds and even “talk” back to us. We love to hear their clever mimicry and sometimes cheeky outbursts. But have you ever wondered why these birds can copy our utterings while other birds are only able to chirp, tweet or sing a simple song?

Researchers have studied the parrot brain structure and now identified some key differences from other birds which explains their amazing ability.

Working under Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Erich Jarvis, Chakraborty and his colleagues set out to learn just what it is about parrots and a select few other birds that makes them expert sound imitators, or ‘vocal learners.’

They paid special attention to the gene expression patterns of parrot brains in particular, noting that their brains are structured very differently than those of songbirds and even hummingbirds, who exhibit much less refined forms.

“It takes significant brain power to process auditory information and produce the movements necessary for mimicking sounds of another species,”  Chakraborty [a researcher of neuroscience at Duke University] said.

According to the researchers, the unique structure of vocal-learning activity in the parrot brain has gone unnoticed for the greater part of the last 34 years – something that may very-well be largely due to the fact that the budgerigar (common pet parakeet) was the only species of parrot whose brain had been investigated.

For this study, in addition to the budgerigar, researchers carefully analyzed brain tissue from conures, cockatiels, lovebirds, two species of Amazon parrots, a blue and gold macaw, a kea and an African Grey parrot.

Read the full article at Parrot Powers: What Makes These Birds Great Vocal Imitators