When Mom and Dad brought their little bundle of joy home, they had no idea that their parrot was paying such close attention! So when the new parents heard the baby crying in the kitchen, they rushed to see what was going on.
What they discovered was their beloved parrot wailing out! According to the Scientific American, a parrot’s ability to mimic sounds is deeply embedded into its genetic makeup.
The publication explains this further, noting that some benefits of learning [specific sounds] may include the development of context-specific calls. In fact, imitative vocal learning is also a “reliable social display of neural functions-requiring good hearing, memory and muscle control for sound production-that may be under consideration by a potential mate or ally.”
In some cases, these regional calls may help males and females from similar areas find each other. Or, instead, avoid each other.
“Song learning in some bird species allows territorial neighbors to know each other and helps to distinguish drifters from local territory holders … Maybe this is the best reason for these parrots to imitate: to better command the attention of a potential listener by producing sounds for which the listener already has a memory.”
What this means is that there are a variety of reasons wild parrots use mimicking to their benefit! But when parrots are taken in as pets, that type of mimicking behavior is applied to human speech – and, apparently, baby cries!