We’ve talked about the silly things Alexa can be used for, as well as how sometimes very young children can unwittingly use Alexa to cause mischief, including ordering things from Amazon. But what about pets that can talk — specifically, if you’ve got an inquisitive parrot in your house? Do you have to worry about it activating Alexa and potentially causing havoc?
If you’re a parrot owner, you probably won’t be surprised that this could definitely be a cause for concern. Parrots can learn to speak human language clear enough to activate Alexa on devices like Echos. Here’s everything we know about what these clever birds have managed to do.
Can you train a parrot to use Alexa?
First, it’s important to remember that parrots are very intelligent birds. They are one of the few creatures that have evolved brains similar to humans, and it’s no surprise they like to get involved in human activities. In other words, owners have repeatedly discovered that you don’t need to train parrots to use Alexa — because they pick it up naturally, anyway. Here are a few of the most popular examples:
- In 2018, a U.K.-based parrot named Rocco learned to talk to Alexa and piece together commands that the voice assistant could follow. That included playing Kings of Leon songs (like many parrots, Rocco liked to dance to a beat) but quickly progressed to ordering things using Alexa skills. Rocco was said to have ordered strawberries, watermelon, and raisins, as well as random objects like kites and light bulbs.
- Again in 2018, reports came out about an African Grey parrot in Florida named Petra who mastered voice assistants at the young age of four. With some help from her owners, she learned to use Alexa to turn lights on and off among a variety of other tricks. When her owners switched to Google Assistant, she started correcting them by saying, “Alexa” whenever they used the wake word, “OK, Google.” Petra even had her own YouTube channel where the bird had many interactions with technology.
- In 2017, a five-year-old parrot in Australia called Buddy was outed for mimicking his owner’s voice commands to activate Alexa and ordered a set of gift boxes. In this particular case, it seems clear that the parrot wasn’t ordering any particular item but stringing some of the English words it knew together and letting Alexa guess what it wanted to order.
- In 2021, an African Grey parrot called Max Franklin (believed to be located in New York) had his own TikTok channel. In one video, he surprised his fans by activating Alexa and commanding the voice assistant, “Add pulled pork.” The moment quickly went viral, and Max’s other videos quickly showed that he could use Alexa to play specific radio stations or request a rap song.
Note that all these examples feature African Grey parrots, who appear to be particularly adept at picking up the nuances of voice commands — or at least enough phrases to cause some havoc.
What about parrots and smart displays like the Echo Show?
Smart displays aren’t safe either, even if your parrot doesn’t master mimicking Alexa commands. Some of the birds are more visually oriented, and that can lead to trouble. Here’s a Reddit story about a parrot who tapped a Fresh Cart ad (a grocery delivery service focused on fresh food, so the visuals may have been appealing), selected a recipe, and tapped on the option to add all ingredients to the cart for purchase.
Can you use Alexa to teach a parrot to talk?
It’s not clear that Alexa can directly teach parrots new words, as they appear to mostly learn by listening to their owners, and Alexa’s responses are typically too limited to teach parrots much new information. However, you can still use smart devices like these to help teach your bird how to interact with your home and learn more about what they want. This YouTube channel from Jen C, for example, shows her cockatoo Ellie learning how to use a tablet computer in her cage to ask for nuts, practice tracing designs, and more. Voice assistants can be used in a similar way.
Additional parrot skills on Alexa
Speaking of parrots, there are some fun parrot-related skills with Alexa. This Parrot skill mimics a parrot by repeating back what you say to it, as does this one. Meanwhile, this informational skill and others like it offer awesome facts about parrots, too.
Always remember, you can turn off voice purchasing in the Alexa app to prevent any problems. If parrots (or kids) are smart enough to confirm orders and complete purchases, then you can also enable a voice code that is required before orders are completed — just don’t let your parrot hear it.
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