The Talking Texan Parrot

Einstein’s Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of parrot is Einstein?
    I am a Congo African Grey Parrot. (Psittacus erithacus) In the wild, I can be found in the rain forests of West and Central Africa.
  • How old is Einstein?
    Einstein was hatched on 6/15/97. You can do the math.
  • Is Einstein a boy or a girl parrot?
    For 17 1/2 years we didn’t know for sure. African Grey Parrots are monomorphic, meaning that the male and females look the same. We assigned the name Einstein when Einstein was just 3 months old because we liked the name. When we took Einstein in for a baby bird checkup with an avian vet, he told us that you can only determine the sex of an African Grey through DNA testing. From the physical examination, he was 90% sure Einstein was a girl. Then in December of 2014 we decided it was time to really find out. We took “her” to the vet and later discovered “she” was a BOY! You can read all about the discovery on the blog post, Einstein’s Sex Change
  • Why did you name him Einstein?
    African Grey parrots have a reputation for being very smart. Jeff, picked the name Einstein after the man Albert Einstein. At the time we named him, we didn’t know that many other people name their parrots Einstein too! We much know of at least 10 other parrots named Einstein. Often people get confused and think Einstein is the parrot who was on the Animal Planet TV show. He is not, please visit the blog post, The Name Game for more details.
  • What were Einstein's first words?
    Einstein first started talking when he was 17 months old.  His first words were "Gobble-Gobble-Gobble!" at Thanksgiving in 1998. Grace was being said at our Thanksgiving table in the dining room; then all of a sudden we heard a very loud "Gobble-Gobble-Gobble!" coming from the kitchen. Naturally, the outburst of laughter from my family and friends were tremendous and very soon started repeating many other words and sounds we had earlier vocalized to him. It was like the flood gates opened, and all these words came out! Since then, he has not stopped learning and saying new things. A clever version of this story appeared in Real People Magazine; you can read about it on the Celebrity page.
  • Does Einstein ever stop talking?
    Yes, he stops to eat, to sleep, to play, & when he doesn't feel like it. He always seems to want to talk when we want to take a nap, when on the telephone, or during our favorite TV program. There's nothing we can do about it! He loves to talk, and we wouldn't have it any other way!
  • How do you teach Einstein to talk?
    We use no tapes or CD's when training Einstein. We simply talk to him. We talk to Einstein like a member of the family. If we are home, he is out of his cage. He is either perched on us or a nearby perch. A bird learns speech from other birds. Not tapes, TV, etc. We are his other "birds". However, he does react to sounds on the TV. For example, when a telephone rings on TV, he sometimes will say, "Hello".

    I have two methods when teaching Einstein things to say. For songs, I dance. Yes, I know it's silly, but here is the reason. Birds will display for each other in the wild. They do tricks and spread their feathers out and do all kind of crazy things. Well, I do the same thing. When I taught him "Who Let the Dogs Out," I sang the song while bouncing my head and upper body just like the group that recorded the song. For teaching "Shake your Bootie"... well, you can only imagine what I shook! :) When I taught him how to count. I gave him white index cards with the number written on each one. I'd let him take it from me in her beak, and he would bite the card and drop it. Then, I would go to the next number and so on. I do not know why he skips "2" and "7." We are working on that, but I think he has decided they are not worthy of learning! I've done the same thing with colors. I’d give him a blue toy, and I say, "BLUE," he takes it from me and drops it. He can say, "red," "blue," "green," "purple," and "orange". Most all words he has learned on his own. He learns by listening to us.

    Also, when Einstein is learning a new word, the new word is usually not perfect. However, I know she is working on learning something new. So I listen. When he says the new sound, I try to figure out what it is. Just as if he were, a 2 year old child learning to talk. For example: "squirrel" was not perfect the first time out of her beak. The first sound we heard was "squ," then it was "squel," then I figured out he was trying to say "squirrel," so I started saying squirrel often. I also associated a sound to it as a squirrel would make. He loved it! Now, he will ask, "What's a squirrel?" and we answer with a "chik-chik-chik" sound.

    Many people have commented about how clearly Einstein speaks. We have always talked very clearly and never used "baby talk." I believe that has made a difference. Texans speak slower too! That might be another reason! We also have to be careful what we say, and we DO NOT use curse words or fowl language in our household.
    Here are two very good resources. 5 Ways To Rev Up Your Bird's Vocabulary. A very good DVD/CD is "Train Your Parrot To Talk" by Barbara Heidenreich of Good Bird Inc. It demonstrates proven methods for encouraging your parrot to vocalize and how to train your parrot to talk on cue.
  • What is Einstein's favorite treat?
    Texas Pecans!
  • What is Einstein's favorite food?
    I'm known for saying, "Eat your Corn!" in many of my videos. I do like corn and I eat corn often, but corn is really a word I learned that means food. I uses it instead of the word "food," to me is means the same. I gets fresh corn, frozen corn (warmed up), or corn on the cob. I'm not fed dry corn. Visit my "Eat Your Corn!" page and read more about what foods I heat and what's healthy to feed a parrot.
  • What does Einstein eat?
    Einstein eats a diet of fresh vegetables, cooked and sprouted grains, beans, and lentils. Some fruit, nuts and healthy seed (flax, hemp, pumpkin, chia). I purchase organic when at all possible. Occasionally, some animal based protein is fed. She loves chicken, salmon, and a piece of hard boiled egg. He also enjoys eating a little of what we have for dinner providing it is safe for him. He loves lasagna and spicy foods. He also is given a pelleted parrot food. An entire section of this website is dedicated to Einstein's diet and recipes.

    Parrots should not be given anything high in fat or sodium. Some foods are toxic to parrots and should always be avoided. Here is a list of safe and unsafe foods for parrots. Parrots should not be fed a seed and peanut diet. This is like only feeding candy to your child and nothing else. It will lead to malnutrition and health problems for your parrot.
  • Does Einstein's have a favorite place?
    Einstein loves to perch on the kitchen drawer and play in the cabinet. You can watch many of these videos on the "In the Kitchen" page. He also enjoys perching and talking on top of the shower. Visit the "In the Shower" page, there are many videos of him playing and talking there.
  • Does Einstein have any pet peeves?
    Yes! Einstein hates to have the rug in front of the kitchen sink picked up. Watch the video, Einstein Growls when the Kitchen Rug is picked up. Watch the video when he gets even with it! Einstein Gets Even with the Kitchen Rug!
  • Are Einstein's wings clipped?
    Einstein's wings are clipped, but he’s still a strong flyer and can “fly-hop” for example, from his perch to the kitchen counter. Read more about wing clipping and watch a demonstration of his fly-hop here.
  • Is Einstein "potty" trained?
    Einstein is potty trained. Einstein is more fastidious than most other parrots. We don’t really know why. More information about how we potty trained him can be found on the Flying and Pooping page.
  • Does Einstein understand what he says?
    Yes, he understands much of what he says. For example, he may notice me collecting garbage and he’ll say, “Take out the garbage!” Or, when he says, “Wanna come see you.” He really does want to get picked up. He will ask for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at the applicable time of the day. He has also asked for a drink of water. He says "Good Morning" only in the morning and "Night" only at night. He might see me go in and out the door and will ask "Gonna go outside?" Often, I know he knows what he is saying. However, when he talks randomly, I think he is just doing what birds like to do, and that’s… make noise. Whether it's chirps or words. I think he is just vocalizing what comes naturally - what he has learned.

    Dr. Irene Pepperberg wrote the book, "The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots" and she continues to do research animal intelligence. Go to The Alex Foundation for more information.
  • How did you teach Einstein to wave?
    Einstein learned to wave by imitating. Every morning when my husband left the house for work, I would do this exaggerated wave. I wave my hand and forearm very fast, side to side and say "Bye-bye." Also, I would do the same to Einstein when I left the house. It took a couple of years, but eventually he imitated the wave by raising his foot and shaking his body. We laughed and waved back. This positive reinforcement took hold. We never set out to train this behavior, it just happened. Now he does it often. Here is a video of him doing the wave years ago. He also shakes and waves in his "Harlem Shake" video. (Granted, I got very bad reviews for the music!)
  • Does Einstein Ever Bite?
    All parrots can and do bite. Einstein is still and always will be a wild bird. He has all the instincts of a wild bird. If provoked or frightened it is a normal response for a bird to bite. The responsibility of not getting bit depends on the person. You must know the signs of the birds body language, as there are quick, subtle changes that occur right before a bird will bite you. Building trust and watching the body language is the key to not getting bit. When Einstein does bite, it is always our fault for not paying attention!
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