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My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Want to teach your bird talk? Learn about and discuss methods for training birds to vocalize and mimic different sounds on cue.

My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby GhostAnjo » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:41 pm

I have a male African Grey Congo, about 1 ½ years of age. I’ve had him for 6 months and he won’t talk or stop whistling. Most of the time he’ll only whistle the same loud tune over and over again, which sounds like he’s whistling for a dog . He does this when I leave the room ,or when people are talking to each over from across different rooms , or someone other than me enters and leaves the room with me in the room or not, or he’ll do it at random inside and outside of his cage, mainly when he’s not getting attention at that moment but he’ll sometimes do it when he is getting attention. I can sometimes get him to stop when I cover his cage. I assumed that he’s doing this for attention. For about 3 months I’ve been ignoring him while he whistles trying to teach him that he can’t get attention that way. When I take him out I say come here to teach him what to say. When I say come here he’ll come to the door of the cage and wait for me to let him out, so I can tell that he knows come here means he’s coming out of his cage, once he’s out I greet and pet him , he’ll respond with a small whistle and/or a click. He still continues the loud whistles that I’ve been discouraging. Because of this I’m not sure why he’s whistling. He hasn’t talked yet at all. Occasionally he’ll imitate the squeaking of dog toys, as well as make tooting, and mumbling sounds that make it seem like he’s trying to talk but he’s been doing that since one week after I got him. I’ve played recordings of myself saying his name when I was away but he wasn’t showing any change, and it felt like his whistling got worse with them. I’m not sure if I should go back to the recordings for this reason. Does anyone have advice? :gray:
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby brfussne » Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:12 pm

I've read that Greys don't start talking until they're at least a year old. Yours being a little over a year may be just learning to speak. I would recommend to keep trying the recording or keep repeating the words you want it so say. I've also read that Greys are very shy and many only speak when they're alone in a room by themselves. It's very hard to get a Grey to not imitate words or sounds that it already knows and it will be quite some time before your Grey stops doing the whistle sound you don't like. Be vigilant though, keep discouraging it and the Grey will get the hint. It's best to prevent the Grey from learning noises you don't like such as the smoke alarm alert. For instance, if you don't like the sound of your microwave dinging, it would be best for you to stop the microwave before it reaches 0 in order to prevent it from dinging or the Grey will learn that noise because it hears it often and won't stop imitating it.
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby pennyandrocky » Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:35 pm

with parrots you have to be patient it takes time to build trust and bond covering him for whistling is not going to help with either.pay attention to sounds you like and don't respond to what you don't.until he learns whatever is so important to say enjoy him they have more to offer than just talking my amazon never learned to say more than no but i would give a anything to have him back.
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby liz » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:24 pm

Your CAG is storing up words. He will surprise you one day.
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby sidech » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:06 am

I've read that birds who are taught to whistle have a tendency to stick to that and not talk. I don't know if it's true though.

Personnally I don't whistle to my bird.
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby Andromeda » Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:46 am

GhostAnjo wrote:Most of the time he’ll only whistle the same loud tune over and over again, which sounds like he’s whistling for a dog . He does this when I leave the room ,or when people are talking to each over from across different rooms , or someone other than me enters and leaves the room with me in the room or not, or he’ll do it at random inside and outside of his cage, mainly when he’s not getting attention at that moment but he’ll sometimes do it when he is getting attention. I can sometimes get him to stop when I cover his cage.


Actually from what you've said above it sounds like his whistle is his "contact call." It's completely natural for a bird to call out to its "flock" when they are out of sight. I have owned several different species of bird in my life and they have all used contact calls. If you don't like the whistling you can encourage it to stop by not responding to it but it's likely that he will replace it with a different contact call.

Your best bet is probably for you to choose what you'd like his contact call to be and then teach it to him by using it when you are out of his sight.

For example, my brown headed parrot Jimmy has a natural contact call he makes but I always respond from the other room with "Jimmy! Jimmy!" He still makes his own contact call when I leave the room but I'd say 85% of the time he now says "Jimmy" instead.

GhostAnjo wrote:Occasionally he’ll imitate the squeaking of dog toys, as well as make tooting, and mumbling sounds that make it seem like he’s trying to talk but he’s been doing that since one week after I got him.


If he's mumbling he's trying to work out words that he's hearing. I agree with Liz: he's storing up words and will blurt out something one day when you least expect it.

Brfussne also makes an excellent point about the microwave. Both my brown headed parrot and my GCC imitate the microwave and oven timer beep; my brown head's imitation in particular is extremely loud, shrill, and high-pitched. I don't mind it, really, but if you don't want to hear it from your CAG definitely take steps to prevent it.

I'm not sure how well recordings work but my personal opinion is that talking to your bird in context is the best way to encourage speech. Choose certain words that you will always use for certain actions, such as "bye bye" when you leave the room or house or "hi" when you enter a room, etc.---whatever you want him to say. If you're interacting with him tell him what you're going to do before you do it ("Do you want a bath? Let's give you a bath").
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby ljeanne » Fri May 18, 2012 8:45 pm

my cag says Romeo alot but he too mostly beeps and clicks and whistles,he is 6 yrs old and just chooses to not say things that he knows. odd bird! however my tag is about a year old now and he mumbles now etc ..until now,...he comes out with his first word! ROMEO! his name is Jake.
the quakers in the cage next to him won't shut up so i'm sure he'll say something else soon??? :lol:
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby Shadows Mum » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:37 pm

Your Grey is using the whistle as a "contact Call"... My Sun Conure does this the instant I leave his sight and if I am in another room & he hears my voice. Most birds use a contact call to keep track of their favored flock member. I have always heard that teaching a Grey to whistle is a bad idea if you wish to encourage true human vocalizations. I am currently trying to discourage my Sun from whistling so he doesnt teach it to my grey. My grey is under 7mos and already expirimenting with vocalizations & mumblings. Its a total myth that ALL greys talk. Infact, the majority that I have met did not. They imitated many sounds, but I have only personally known 3 "true talkers" & working @ a rescue, I have met MANY!!! My boy seems to prefer imitating words spoken with lots of "ooomph" & excitement behind them... Greys like "attention getting vocalizations". Thats why they are known for imitating sounds that make their owners spring into action (microwave beeps, telephone rings, door knocking) they see us go running to the things that make those sounds! Keep trying. Your bird is still very young. I know greys can learn new words well onto adulthood. Also, I use the same exact phrases & words in the same exciting tone everyday. I explain everything. (want some water?, heres breakfast!, goodnight! You wanna come see me?) And I do it religiously. I also say it directly to my bird as if I expect a response... Although he isnt clear yet, & its mostly mumbles, he IS starting speech attempts at 6 & 1/2 mos old! Anyways, best of luck to you. I wouldnt bother with recordings. Birds need interaction if you want them to actually UNDERSTAND what theyre saying & use learned words in proper context.
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby Pricey_boy » Sat Jun 15, 2013 10:21 am

do not use the recordings its rediculous he'll just start saying these words randomly one day and it will get annoying, or it might keep him from talking all together, some birds will just never talk.i think trying to discourage a certain call is unnatural instead try encouraging a new call over it instead. imagine sitting in a cage hearing voices but seeing no one he'll hear that sound alot and probably learn to hate it and he will learn the things you dont wont him to
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Re: My African Grey keeps whistling and won't talk, any advice?

Postby GreenWing » Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:32 pm

Agree with the other posts; I'd wager your CAG is storing up words and just might surprise you one day ^^

Your bird IS trying to communicate with you via whistles and clicks. Don't ignore the whistling, it's vocal and he is basically saying your "name"/call in communicating with you. My Sennie has a specific call for me. Clicking is also a start to vocalizing.

Be patient. Keep talking to your bird as you handle him, repeat words over and over. I've done this with my Sennie and while Sennies aren't the best talkers, she can now say several words (although, they're not always clear!) and she is only a year and a half. Show your bird lots of love and affection. I do think that when a parrot is happy, is socialized, and feeling loved, they'll try to communicate more.
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