How To EASILY Teach A Cockatiel To Talk & Sing

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

How to teach a cockatiel to talk

Cockatiels are amazing birds that can pick up different sounds quite well. However, it can be tricky getting them to mimic words or tunes we specifically want them to make. Whether you want to teach your cockatiel to talk, whistle, or sing a song, you’re going to get a lot of tips and tricks in this article.

You’re also going to get the super simple 5-step guide to training cockatiels to talk.

  • “Whatcha Doin’?”
  • “Hello”
  • “Good Boy!”
  • “Night Night”

These are all super fun words you can teach your cockatiel to say!

Before getting into the step-by-step guide, let’s discuss how well cockatiels can talk…

Can Cockatiels Actually Learn To Talk Clearly?

First of all, yes…

Cockatiels can learn how to talk!

But it’s fairly common knowledge within the avian community that cockatiels usually don’t speak very clearly. Although their words can be understood, they’re definitely not as clear of talkers as budgies, amazon parrots, or African greys. 

Their voices are just too “rough”, if that’s the right word…

Cockatiels are certainly MUCH better at singing and whistling tunes than they are at talking.

Despite their “scratchy” voices, cockatiels can still be taught to talk with enough patience and effort from their teachers (you).

How To Teach A Cockatiel To Talk OR Sing | Step-By-Step Guide

Once you understand the basics of training cockatiels to talk, it’s pretty straightforward! It’s only a matter of drilling the words or song into their heads through repetition and encouraging them to repeat it.

There are a number of ways you could do this, but here’s my super simple step-by-step guide:

  • Step 1: Select the word, phrase, or tune you want your cockatiel to repeat
  • Step 2: Repeat it daily & with consistency
  • Step 3: Positive association
  • Step 4: Reward your cockatiel for any talking attempts
  • Step 5: Just keep repeating the sound until you go crazy!

That’s pretty much the guide in a nutshell, but let’s discuss each step in further detail…

Step 1: Select A Word, Phrase, Or Tune

Since you’re on this guide, I’m sure you have at least one sound you’d like to teach your cockatiel. No matter if it’s a word or song, keep it short. Longer sounds are more difficult for cockatiels to pick up and they’ll have an easier time remembering short sounds.

Make sure the sound you choose is also pleasant as you’ll be hearing it A LOT while training!

And the most important note:


Cockatiels will not pick up anything if you’re constantly switching between sounds. Just pick one and stick with it until your bird begins to show results.

Step 2: Repeat The Sound Daily & With Consistency

Repeating the sound you want your cockatiel to mimic will help put it into their heads.

Frequently speak the word or phrases you want your cockatiel to say or whistle the song you want them to sing. Try speaking with a lot of emotion as parrots are very receptive to that. Move your body and express a general happy tone while speaking to your bird.

train a cockatiel to speak
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I suggest letting them hear the sound for at least an hour every day or more.

However, this hour can be broken up into 10 – 15 minute sessions so you aren’t making the same sound for an hour straight. One good tip is to either record yourself making the sound or try to find a YouTube video that does it for you.

This is so you don’t need to always make the sound yourself.

It’s also a great way to keep the tone, pitch, and volume of the sound consistent, making it easier for your cockatiel to mimic accurately.

The more often your cockatiel listens to a sound, the more likely they are to mimic it.

Step 3: Utilize Positive Association

Did you know parrots can associate sounds with different feelings?

In the wild, the sound of a hawk will be associated with fear and danger. The sound of running water is associated with happiness as it means they can quench their thirst or have a bath. The tactic here is to help your bird associate your selected sound with positivity and happiness!

They’ll then be WAY more inclined to pick up and mimic the sound.

One specific way to do this is through the words you say to your bird during training sessions…

Training Phrases & Positive Association

If you plan to teach your cockatiel to speak something like “good boy/girl”, then you can EASILY associate that phrase with treats, rewards, and vocal praise. I always say “good boy” whenever my bird steps up, flies to me, or touches the target.

He then receives a treat immediately after.

Can you teach a cockatiel to talk?
Enjoying a sunflower seed

Doing this has made him visibly more receptive to the phrase, which ultimately makes him more likely to repeat it.

Although this was a super-specific example, I hope you get the main idea:

Make your cockatiel happy while they’re listening to your sound & associate that sound with positive feelings.

Step 4: Reward Your Cockatiel For Any Speaking, Talking, Or Singing Attempts

This is the simplest step in the process…

Whenever your cockatiel attempts to make the sound you’ve been pounding into their heads, give them some type of reward. Offering treats is a good positive reinforcer, but when teaching your cockatiel to talk, it’s also great to repeat the sound back to your bird.

Mimicking your cockatiel when they mimic you encourages them to keep making the sound.

Starting back-and-forth banter with your tiel is also a fun bonding exercise!

Whenever your cockatiel begins talking or singing the song you want, walk up, give them attention, and drop a tasty treat on their perch.

Step 5: Just Keep Repeating The Sound Until You Go Crazy!!

Repetition is key to any kind of parrot training, and teaching them to talk is no different.

When they first start mimicking the sound, it’ll likely be an inaccurate interpretation. In other words, it might sound a little different to what you’re trying to teach. This is 100% normal as cockatiels need time and practice to learn what you’re trying to teach.

The best way to adjust their sound so it’s more accurate is just to let them listen to it more often…

Even if it drives you crazy 😂

But trust me, it’s all worth it when your cockatiel can say a few words clearly and with accuracy.

Male Vs Female Cockatiel Talking Ability

Male cockatiels are by far the better talkers!

In the wild, the males are much more expressive with both their sounds and movements as they try to attract the attention of a female. As pets, males still like to be very expressive to their owners, even if there is no female around.

Female cockatiels prefer sticking to flock calls, chirps, and other natural sounds.

You would definitely have a much easier time training a male cockatiel to talk compared to a female.

However, all birds are individuals and many do not follow the typical gender rules.

Learn more about the differences between male and female cockatiels…

How Long Does It Take To Teach A Cockatiel To Talk?

The answer to this question depends on many factors.

Yes, it does require lots of patience before your cockatiel makes your selected sound with 100% accuracy, but there is no set timeline for when this will happen. It could take a few days for some and it could take a few weeks or even months for others.

Some cockatiels won’t talk, speak, or sing specific sounds at all.

But as mentioned, the ability and willingness to talk can depend on a few factors:

A Few Factors That Can Determine Speaking Ability

  • Age of the bird – Young birds are far more receptive to learning new behaviours and sounds than older birds. Although there is no such thing as a bird being “too old to learn”, it’ll certainly be easier to drill a specific sound into a young bird’s head compared to an adult bird.
  • Sex – As discussed before, male cockatiels are more likely to repeat words and songs they’ve picked up than females.
  • How they were raised – Hand-raised birds are exposed to human speech from a very young age, making them much more knowledgeable about how we talk and how to mimic it. Parent-raised cockatiels can still be taught how to speak, but most won’t be as receptive to it as hand-raised birds as they were likely raised around their natural sounds.
  • Their opinion on the sound – Cockatiels are more likely to mimic sounds they actually like. There are certain pitches, tones, and sounds that birds can find annoying and won’t repeat. If you’ve been trying to teach your cockatiel a sound for weeks or even months with no results, you might need to select a new sound.
how to train a cockatiel to talk
Image source: Unsplash

What Words Or Phrases Can Cockatiels Say?

Cockatiels are best at picking up short words or phrases.

Trying to teach your cockatiel to say high-syllable words or complex sentences will often prove pointless as it’s simply too long to pick up, let alone mimic with accuracy.

Here’s a list of some words & phrases cockatiels can easily learn:

  • “Good morning”
  • “Night night”
  • “Good bird”
  • “Hello”
  • *Bird’s Name* (if it’s short)
  • “Step up”
  • “Come here”
  • “Want a snack?”

Parrots are especially prone to learning training words, such as “step up”, even if you don’t intend to teach them the phrase. Whatever words you use to greet or say goodbye to your bird will also leave an impression on them as those are your first and final words.

So, don’t be surprised if your cockatiel says “good morning” when you wake them up!

If you’re always saying your cockatiel’s name to them (which most people do), they’ll likely start repeating that as well.

More Tips, Tricks, & Secrets For Teaching Sounds To Cockatiels

Before wrapping up this article, I’d like to share some more tips, tricks, and secrets for training your cockatiel to talk or sing. I’m positive you’ll be able to teach your cockatiel to say anything if you follow the step-by-step guide above and the tips you’re about to learn below…

Helpful Tips For Teaching Your Cockatiel To Talk & Mimic Words

The first tip:

Speak the desired word while your cockatiel is in an excited or heightened state…

Most birds pay more attention and are more receptive to your words when they’re excited!

My cockatiel gets visibly excited during flight training sessions and when someone walks up and gives him attention. If I had any words or phrases that I wanted to teach him, I would definitely be saying them while he’s in that heightened state.

An excited cockatiel will often dilate their pupils, bob their heads, and spread their wings.

how to train a cockatiel to talk
Image source: Unsplash

The second tip:

Click the clicker at the very moment your bird says your selected word or phrase…

If your cockatiel is clicker-conditioned, you should definitely be utilising that when teaching them how to talk. Clicker-conditioned birds understand that a click means they did something good. This is especially useful if your cockatiel is already saying a bunch of things and you want to encourage them to speak a specific word out of the bunch.

Click and reward AS SOON as they say that specific word.

You’ll find that your bird will say that specific thing more often in hopes of getting rewarded!

Helpful Tips For Training Your Cockatiel To Whistle & Sing Songs

First tip:

Teach full songs in smaller & more digestible sections…

As mentioned multiple times in this article, cockatiels will struggle to learn and mimic long sounds. If you want them to sing a somewhat lengthy song, you should teach it in small parts. Most songs can be broken up into smaller phases, so teach one phase at a time.

Ideally, your cockatiel should begin mimicking phase one of a song before you move on to teaching them the next phase.

Second tip:

You can find whistle versions of almost any song on YouTube

Perhaps you want to train your cockatiel to sing star wars themes, or maybe “another one bites the dust”, which is the song my tiel knows. Or you might want to teach them to sing “September”, you know, that song literally EVERY cockatiel on the internet can sing…

No matter what song you want them to sing, you can almost guarantee that there is a whistle version of the song on YouTube. Just search “*Your selected song*, cockatiel training” and you should find EXACTLY what you need. Ideally, you should look for versions that are slowed down and include breaks as it’s easier for cockatiels to learn.

That’s all the tips I have for you today, feel free to let me know if this has helped or if you believe any more helpful info should be added to the article…

Thank you for reading and good luck with your training!

Read 5 Fun Tricks You Can Train Your Cockatiel To Do



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