The home of the pioneering
talking macaw called Arielle
Originally, I hadn't intended to perform speech research with a parrot. Arielle
was the motivating force behind my interest in interspecies communication with
a talking bird. It was Arielle's early ability, to comprehend English words, that
started my quest to understand how she learned to use words correctly in new
situations; she exhibited her ability to apply words correctly, even though she
had received no instruction for the particular expression.

The articles on this page are edited from my manuscript for a yet-to-be-
published book about our first six years together, tentatively titled
Arielle: A
Macaw's Diary
. This is one of two manuscripts I have written dealing
with free speech by a talking bird. The text traces experiences Arielle and I
shared outdoors over our first six years together. Five chapters deal principally
with speech and provide the details for 100 instances of purposeful speech by
Arielle. Other chapters relate how Arielle came to live with me, relate some of
her unusual behaviors, and tell about Arielle's interaction with other people.

I've been involved with Arielle and her use of the English language for
eighteen years. During the time, I've learned a great amount from her about
the ability of talking birds to understand and to use human language correctly.
There isn't sufficient space here to go into all the details, but with support from
my family, I continue to write about my experiences. For more information about
the book,
 Another Kind of Mind: A Talking Bird Masters English, click on the

Readers' comments concerning these articles and the other reports posted at
this site are welcomed. I look forward to suggestions for improvement by
bird-lovers, parrot owners, people interested in interspecies communication,
scientists, or any one interested in living closely with a parrot-like bird.
You are here:
Macaw Speech
On occasion, Arielle gets herself
into precarious situations, as is
illustrated in the story below:
"Rescued from a tree."

In this photograph, Arielle plays
by hanging upside down while
exploring the grapefruit tree in
our yard. At a distance, her
coloring affords camouflage as
she romps among the leaves of
the tree with similar hue.
To listen to Arielle speak, click play.                (If player button is missing, click here.)

If, after hearing her speech, you can't
determine what Arielle said, the transcription
is in a yellow box near the bottom of this page.

Arielle and I were visiting a local park; we had walked
three-quarters of the footpath encircling the lake. A large bird
spooked Arielle, and she jumped from my shoulder and flew into
the wind. Her flight took her away from me over a portion of the
water and back toward some tall trees; as she flew, nearby
shrubs and trees farther away blocked my line of sight. I ran and
searched several blocks adjacent to the park because Arielle
had achieved considerable altitude as she flew. Many minutes
later, a man approached and showed me where Arielle was
perched. I had overestimated how far she had flown, probably
because my flustered mind was not thinking clearly. Against the
green needles of a pine tree, my macaw blended in well enough
that it was not obvious where she was, unless one was looking
directly at her.

She had landed on a tree branch more than 30 feet above
ground. I called home from a house adjacent to the park and
asked my wife, Pat, to bring my rescue kit to retrieve Arielle
from the tree. Pat arrived with my long pole, a T-bar perch that I
had built, rope, and other paraphernalia. The pole extended to
20 feet and, with a T-perch attached the total length was about
two feet longer. Held at arm's length above my head, I could
reach greater than 30 feet above the ground. Thirty feet was not
high enough.

The man who helped me suggested that I could use a
table to secure additional height. I improvised a four-foot ladder
by upturning an easily moved wire trash container and stood on
it. Reaching upwards upon tiptoes, I could hoist the bar of the
T-perch level with the branch upon which Arielle stood.

I strained to lift and counter the torque exerted by the
pole as I held it above my head. A group of bystanders gathered
to watch, as I guided the quivering pole amongst the branches of
the tree. The trash barrel swayed under my weight frustrating
my ability to control the rescue device. It was challenging to
control the motion as a
small movement near the fulcrum caused a much larger
one at the end of the fully-extended pole. My support was
imprecisely positioned under Arielle's position. The
misalignment  required that I hold the long pole off vertical, and
most of the weight was well above my head. It was exerting work
and perspiration dripped from my head. I extended my arms
upward at an angle and strained my wrists to apply sufficient
torque to manipulate the elevated T-perch. After nearly stepping
off the edge of the trash bin, I gyrated the apparatus in front of
my bird briefly.

The pole oscillated uncontrollably. I released the contraption
and repositioned it for another rescue attempt. Training a bird
does pay off. With my heart racing and the sound of my pulse in
my ears, I commanded Arielle to step upon the T-perch. "UP!" I
shouted in the calmest sounding, most businesslike, voice I
could muster. Arielle raised her leg; she was going to step onto
the perch.

As soon as she mounted the perch, I guided the pole away from
the limb upon which she perched and out of grabbing range of
other branches. With a wrist wrenching motion, I slowly lowered
the pole to bring my bird closer. In a few seconds, I removed her
from the T-bar and she returned to her normal position on my
shoulder. As I jumped from the makeshift ladder to the ground, I
scolded Arielle. The next morning I trimmed her flight feathers
shorter to prevent a repetition of the previous day's flight.
(September 1997)

P.S.: I recommend that beginning parrot owners use a tether if
they want to take their birds outside.
Only a disciplined parrot
owner, who has practiced walking with and rescuing his bird
outdoors, should attempt to handle an unrestrained parrot
. ( I have test flown and filmed Arielle in flight several
times. On this occasion, she took an unauthorized flight because
I neglected to consider the wind and to check her flight feathers.)

© 2003 by Michael Dalton
© Michael Dalton
Arielle spoke in two voices. In the first part of her
utterance, she employed a low-frequency voice
saying, "You're rotten." After a brief pause, she adds,
"I know," which is spoken in a humorous sounding
voice. A peculiar tone in her
voice gives away what would have been a smirk on
her face, if she were a human being, while making the
teasing comment.
Arielle understands speech and speaks thoughtfully using English
words, phrases, and sentences.
During our customary walk this evening,
Arielle said a distorted two-syllable word,
one that I did not immediately comprehend.
area. As we walked, I made a mental note of
the Halloween decorations, hanging in the
nearby trees, swaying in the wind. As we
continued walking, after thought the word
that fit her utterance came to mind, “goblin.”

How had she learned to relate the
ornamentation to that word? Arielle had
previously seen Halloween trolls, ghosts,
goblins, and scarecrows around the

When “Trick or Treaters” arrive at our
home, I allow the birds to observe the
colorful costumes worn by little “kids,”
several of whom aren't as tall as Arielle is
long. Arielle observes visitors from a
T-stand set up near the front door, or
sometimes she greets guests at our door
while perched upon my shoulder.

On opening the door, parties on both sides
of the entrance act startled! Many of the
children in the community know Arielle from
our walks through the neighborhood, from
seeing her at the playground, or from
visiting our home on a previous Halloween.
The children are delighted to see Arielle, to
greet her, and to receive their Halloween

Parrots in the house initially had great
trepidation concerning the scary characters
that rang our doorbell. To allay her fear, I
told her, “Okay … No hurt!” and that the
ghostly visitors were “goblins.” I described
outdoor decorations hanging eerily from
trees using the label goblin as well, so that is
how Arielle learned to say goblin. As we
continue living together, I am learning that
parrots have the ability to discriminate and
remember people, places, and things, to
provide the correct label for objects, and to
investigate and to control mechanisms like

She is highly aware, and she progresses at
learning concepts in a child-like way, with or
without formal lessons. Two things perplex
me. First is the length of time between when
she learns a word and when she employs it.
Second is the vast quantity of words and
phrases that she remembers. When I listen
to her statements as she speaks, the large
number of phrases she can recall delights
me. The hundreds of utterances she speaks
during vocalizing sessions can be, at times,
both over-whelming and fatiguing. I now
record her speech in order to preserve some
of her monologue. Since Arielle is not a
performing bird, tape recordings
demonstrate her vocal talents at schools, for
talks, and on her Internet site.
{From Anecdote
#169, 28 Oct 1996} © 2003, 2012 by Michael Dalton

Arielle was the subject of a discussion recorded by Story Corp, part of the
National Sound Archives when they visited the Tampa Bay Area. A portion
of the interview about instructing Arielle to learn the English language was
aired on NPR during the program "All Things Considered." An excerpt from
the program is reproduced here.

Click here to listen to a reproduction of the NPR program.