Similar to eyesight, parakeets have a really fantastic sense of hearing in ways that differ from humans. The most noticeable difference is that you may never see your parakeet’s ears, since they are internal, versus the human’s exterior ear. Perhaps if your parakeet takes a really thorough bath you might glimpse their ear holes, but I’ve never seen them on either of my budgies!
All of the research I’ve done indicates that parakeets can hear roughly the same range of sounds as humans, maybe a little better, but this doesn’t explain to me why Toby and Kelly will spend hours flock calling to birds outdoors that I can only faintly hear, or would have to go outside to hear.
What may be a factor is their relationship to sound, they have much more perfect pitch than I do, and they can store sound in their memory more effectively than I can. (*source www.little featheredbuddies.com).
Their proficiency at memorizing sounds in sequence helps them learn to mimic human speech and snippets of music, or in the wild to learn calls that are specific to them and other birds. There is evidence that parrot parents name their children with specific sounds and that those sounds are used for that parrot for their entire life.
I read anecdotal evidence once that suggested this talent could extend to pet parakeets. A woman named Laura had a single male parakeet with an incredibly large vocabulary – she decided to get him a friend and introduced a second parakeet, which she did not name. A short while later, she found that her first parakeet had begun calling the new friend “Laura” while preening her or snuggling at night. It’s touching to think that the male parakeet loved his owner so much that he named his new friend after her. Although I suppose it’s equally possible he just didn’t know any other names, it’s still pretty good evidence that he had a concept of naming. (I will keep trying to find the link to this story again, I haven’t been able to and I apologize that it’s not credited.)
My female parakeets have zero interest in mimicking human speech or most sounds they hear. When Kelly came home she had some new noises that Toby hadn’t heard, but instead of adding each other’s sounds to their lexicons they settled somewhere in the middle and now we can’t tell the two of them apart by their calls. I wonder if it’s because they are so solidly a flock that they have their own agreed upon language of sounds.
I know that they make the same call frequently, and with varying degrees of urgency. When Toby and Kelly are playing in different places they will call out to each other every so often to touch base. If one doesn’t respond the other calls louder or goes to find them. When my husband or I go to the bathroom sometimes one of the budgies will get anxious and start calling to us, if we don’t come back or respond they do the same thing and come to find us and make sure we are okay. For me, that’s wonderful proof that we are part of their flock too, even if we don’t speak the same language!
Parakeets can also be easily startled by loud or unexpected noises, so that’s something to watch out for, especially with new parakeets in the home that may be spooked already, it’s nice to keep things quiet and relaxed for them. This probably relates back to their lives in the wild as prey, it would certainly be beneficial to be on your guard and ready to escape from danger. Another way this links back to eyesight is after dark it’s especially important not to scare them with loud noises, since they can’t reassure themselves that everything is okay using their eyes.
There are a lot of ways that you can engage your parakeet using their sense of hearing that are fun for both of you, and even if they never mimic a single sound it’s still enriching to expose them to new sounds and sound patterns. Have fun exploring new music with your parakeets, maybe you’ll end up having the same favorite song 🙂