Almost everyone can call to mind the image of a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder. “Polly want a cracker?” The parrot is just one type of animal with the capability of communicating with people. Most animals, even intelligent animals, are limited in their ability to ‘talk’ with humans. This is because they can’t make the same sounds that people can.
Some animals ‘talk’ amongst themselves. Even though these animals are highly social creatures, their communications don’t sound like human speech. Today, we’ll discuss different animals that can talk amongst themselves like people or copy human speech.
You may notice that there are several birds on this list. Birds have flexible vocal cords and are efficient mimics of sound. While they are not intelligent like humans, they can be taught to imitate sounds.
Discover fascinating animals that can mimic human speech and engage in conversations among themselves that resemble human-like communication. As you read further, you’ll explore their natural habitats, learn if they are commonly kept as pets, and gain insights into their unique behavioral traits.
8 Animals that Can Talk Like Humans
1. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Crows are common birds throughout most of North America and the United States. They are cosmopolitan animals that live in rural, urban, and suburban areas. Since they’re omnivores, they can survive on foods ranging from insects to grains to leftover trash.
Scientists have discovered that crows are, in fact, some of the most intelligent species of nonhuman animals. Their vocal cords have the ability to mimic some human words.
Wild crows living near human settlements occasionally pick up tidbits of human speech, although they don’t understand its meaning. Combined with their penchant for creating bonds with nearby people or owners, this makes them able to ‘talk’ like people.
2. Common Raven
Scientific name: Corvus corax
The Common ravens are similar to crows with a few morphological differences. First ravens are larger than crows. They have bigger wingspans and territorial ranges.
They’re more solitary, but most pairs mate for life. Ravens will even mourn the passing of a mate or relative.
Look for ravens in North America and Mexico. They live in the western United States, most of Canada, and western Mexico.
They’re effective problem solvers and can become loyal companions, especially when hand raised. Their croaky voices can imitate a small range of human speech.
3. African Grey Parrot
Scientific name: Psittacus erithacus
The parrot is the most well-known animal that has the ability to ‘talk’ the same way a person would. It’s been memorialized in history and legend. There are hundreds of species of parrots that all have varying abilities to talk or mimic human speech, but the most skilled communicator is the African grey parrot.
African grey parrots live for decades and are a major commitment to have as a pet. The wild populations live in rainforests in southern Africa. There, they consume fruits, nuts, and buds of tender young flowers.
4. Common Bottlenose Dolphin
Scientific name: Tursiops truncates
Dolphins don’t have the ability to speak words like humans can, but they are effective communicators with sophisticated language amongst themselves. They ‘talk’ through clicks, a form of underwater echolocation.
Scientists have recorded dolphins communicating instructions on how to hunt fish. The process requires cooperation between over 15 animals, so they have to be able to work together.
When in captivity, dolphins communicate with their trainers via a series of whistles and body movements. They are one of the few species of non-domesticated animals that changes the way they communicate so humans can understand. In the wild, a dolphin would rarely spin while raising its right flipper. However, a captive dolphin can learn that movement to express hunger or excitement.
Scientific name: Orcinus orca
The Orcas, also known as killer whales, are relatives of dolphins. Like their more charismatic cousins, they utilize underwater vocal cues to communicate amongst themselves.
Orcas are less amiable to humans than bottlenose dolphins are. This is probably because orcas’ prey include seals and other dolphins. Humans are too close to the size of ‘prey.’
Orcas have matriarchal pods, meaning that each group of orcas is led by an older female. This head female teaches young how to hunt and coordinates attacks on seals, walruses, and fish.
A fascinating fact about orcas is that they tailor their underwater ‘conversation’ depending on what kind of prey they hunt. Orcas in the oceans off of the Pacific Northwest click and echolocate constantly while hunting salmon, but orcas hunting seals make little to no noise.
Scientists discovered that their silence is intentional – the seals can hear ‘talking’ orcas and swim away.
6. Prairie Dog
Scientific name: Cynomys sp.
Prairie dogs are highly communicative rodents. They are gregarious and social. Most live in the western United States and Mexico. All species dig huge warrens and networks of underground tunnels.
Because prairie dogs are prey animals, they’re constantly under threat from potential predators like hawks, eagles, and coyotes. They defend themselves from attackers by stationing ‘lookouts’ at the edges of burrows.
If the lookout sees a threat, it calls out a warning to the other prairie dogs. This behavior could be called human-like in that it requires communication between the animals.
Scientists have found that prairie dogs use extremely specific calls to describe approaching predators. They bark at different frequencies and volumes to describe the animal’s size, approach speed, and type.
7. Bornean Orangutan
Scientific name: Pongo pygmaeus
The orangutan is an endangered primate native to Southeast Asia’s tropical jungles. Normally, these apes spend their lives high in the trees searching for fruits, nuts, honey, and bark.
Poaching by humans has led to captive breeding operations and rescues for baby orangutans separated by their mothers. These orangutans can’t be released back into the wild because they don’t know how to live without human support.
While caring for captive orangutans, zookeepers and scientists discovered that orangutans have a penchant for mimicry. They are extremely intelligent apes that even understand how to string together simple phrases and mimic the lip positions required for human speech.
8. Super lyrebirds
Scientific name: Menura novaehollandiae
The Superb Lyrebird is a bird species known for its remarkable ability to mimic human speech and a wide range of sounds from its environment. It has distinct physical characteristics, such as long tail feathers shaped like a lyre and brownish-black plumage. This bird’s exceptional vocal skills enable it to reproduce intricate sounds, making it a fascinating member of the avian world.