Should You Change Your Parrot's Name?

Should You Change Your Parrot’s Name?

 October 23rd, 2014
Posted By:
Sarah Stull

Senegal Parrot “Mavi”


Can you change your pet parrot’s name – yes; should you change it – my opinion – no, not under ordinary circumstances.

If you haven’t yet watched the Cornell Lab of Ornithology video entitled “How a Parrot Learns its Name in the Wild,” you should definitely take the time to look it up. There is a growing amount of research into the science of parrots’ names, which is pretty cool.

Personally, I won’t change my birds’ names. Whatever they come with is there to stay, particularly if they seem attached – e.g. repeating it lots, or responding positively to me calling to them.

There is one circumstance where I will break this rule, and that is when a parrot’s name causes it distress. It’s something I’ve seen and heard about in some rescue cases. One person I know of had a parrot who would melt down at the sound of its name. She changed it completely, and the bird was able to move on from its traumatic past.


Foraging parrotlet often pipes his own name when excited


When I read about parrots naming their babies in the nest, I think about captive-raised babies who were deprived of parent interaction. Some birds are lucky enough to be raised with human-given names. But I worry most about the ones who aren’t, the ones who are never named – particularly hand-reared babies who are bred to become pets, but not named until long after they’ve weaned and moved onto their new homes. As people, we identify very deeply with our names. What kind of neural connections and mental developments are missed when a nestling isn’t named?

If you’ve adopted a parrot with a name you just can’t stand, consider changing it to something similar-sounding instead. For instance, Pluto to Plato. I find that it also works to make up a nickname, such as Maverick to Mavi. And if your bird suddenly reveals itself to be the opposite sex, you don’t necessarily have to revert to a different version. Honestly, the birds don’t care. Their names are more important than getting the gender pronoun right. My cockatiel, Mishka, turned out to be a male – but we referred to “him” as a female all her life. It would be very confusing if someone started calling me “Harry” instead of Sarah, so why would I do it to my birds, who – while not human – are still very intelligent?

Flying parrot

Flying male cockatiel


What do you think about naming your pets- change the name, yes or no?

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22 Comments on “Should You Change Your Parrot’s Name?”

Sue Benson  10/28/2014 3:25 am

I have a cockatoo named zippy. It just doesn’t fit his personality and the bird he has become. I believe he got that name while he was at a bird store. He is full of personality so he just doesn’t sekem right. I think the owner just slapped a name on him when I asked about him. Or he came to be consigned without a name? All this aside I would like to rename our much loved bird

Crystal  10/28/2014 7:25 am

Our Alexandrine, we had to change it. She had been shuffled around a lot and abused, I knew her name had been changed several times. Poor baby! She’s great now and her name is Chloe. We used to have to pick her up only with a towel (afraid of hands) but now? She is the most loving bird! It’s amazing to watch them grow emotionally, become confident.

Alison Ward  10/28/2014 7:47 am

We recently re-homed a 5 year old African Grey hen. She was called Charlie originally, although having been in a big mixed aviary for a while I don’t think that she had heard her name much while there. Anyway we already had a Conure called Charlie so her name was an issue. We changed it to Carlie – the nearest sounding name we could think of. She has been with us 6 weeks now and is already calling out her new name. It does not seem to be an issue at all, but I do think if you are going to change a name it is a good idea to go for something with a similar sound.

Annette Cartwright  10/28/2014 9:32 am

My LSC TOO cam e with a name called Durry, changed it to Murray. My other was just called chicken because she looked like a chicken, I re named him, which became a her to Merlin. The other 2 birds that I got from this guy was male and female Ekkie, their names were Ama and Zon. Never changed that, stupid name for birds that don’t come from the Amazon. My B&G came with no name at 9 months, my GW came with no name at 12 weeks and my Scarlet came with no name at 12 weeks. But they are all with their names, they respond. When I lost my GW for 4 days, i found her after day one in the tallest bloody tree in my area, when I called her name she responded with Hi.

Theresa  10/28/2014 9:53 am

I got my African Grey as a baby and named him Peppy. My husband started calling him Chicken because he got spooked at just about everything. He started responding to Chicken and would ignore us if we called him by Peppy. 16 years later he is known as Chicken and I have to explain why I have a male African Grey with the name of Chicken when people meet him. He chose his name!

Frances  10/28/2014 10:04 am

While on an office visit I was told that the vet believed my Red Lored Amazon “Lolita” was a male. When Lolita screamed out “Good Girl!” the vet backed down and said “Ok, you’re a girl!”

Lee Rivers  10/28/2014 10:06 am

Oh no! I always end up with multiple names for my pets. The one I give them when I first get them, which is their official name, another when I get to know them better, a “secret” name I only whisper to them when we cuddle before bedtime or when they’re frightened, their full name including my last name when I mean business and they better behave NOW, and at least two nicknames. LOL

I’ve never had a dog or cat who didn’t learn all their names and the implications attached to the various names, and my Conure is the same.

He arrived with the name Icarus. Can you imagine? He was referred to as a “problem bird.” Maybe that horrible name had something to do with it.

Betty  10/28/2014 12:16 pm

I adopted a mitre conure about 8 yrs ago she came with the name Polly. I wanted a touch more originality so I said to her I’m going to call you Pollyanna is that ok? I know it was just circumstance. But she nodded her little head yes. She was called POLLYANNA, Polly, Miss Anna and many others she responded to most of her nicknames.She has recently died. I miss her terribly.
. I now have a pionus that came with the name Holly! Everyone says she was meant to be mine. I am sure she will get no names too right now she is Holly Pi.

Catherine  10/28/2014 1:36 pm

My Umbrella (Bella) thinks I am Ella and we didn’t know it until he ran around the house looking for me going to every doorway yelling “Ella” “Ella”! That was one we figured it out. He now has a nickname for me at bedtime it’s now El-La-La.
I can’t figure out what he thinks his name is

rosemary  10/28/2014 1:52 pm

I rehomed my beautiful bfa from a breeder when he was almost ten years old- he did not have a name. It did not take long for him to learn and love his name, he is so wonderful– I love him!

Tracy  10/28/2014 2:27 pm

I have a Sun Conure that I took some time to name because I didn’t know the gender and wanted to make sure it would suit either. I ended up going with Ollie (Oliver) as we called him a he for the first 3 years. But we now know that she is really an Olivia (Ollie) as she has laid eggs numerous times over the last 9 years.

Elizabeth  10/28/2014 4:28 pm

My bird (a sun conure) was named Axel by its original owner after Axel Rose from Guns and Roses. I hated the name. I did some research and found that birds like names with certain sounds and changed his name accordingly. His new name is Loki. This name fits his personality. He was a little over 2 yrs old when he was re-homed and I have had him about that long. He seems perfectly happy with the change and even does a little head

Samantha  10/28/2014 5:47 pm

I have a CAG, we are her second owners (we refer to her as a she even though we have no idea what gender she is) she was abused, and we didn’t know her name. She kept saying “Koby” so that’s what we called her at first. But then we realized that she would make short quick whistles and consecutive kissing sounds, then say “Koby, come.” And then she would bark. So “Koby” must have been a dog in her former home. So we had a family meeting and thought of name options. My mom suggested “Katy,” and she “farted” in response. So that was a no. Then all of a sudden she said “Kooka.” She would say “Kookoo” before (in a cute way as in peekaboo), and she just changed it a bit to “Kooka” right when we were discussing names. So it stuck! Her name is Kooka and she responds really well to it. She practicly named herself!

Darlene Cornutt  10/28/2014 6:13 pm

I’ve only re-named one of my flock when I got her. Her name was “Pookie”, which I couldn’t stand! You tell me..who would name a regal Hyacinth “Pookie?” I thought I should try to keep it close sounding as she was 12 yrs old, so her new name is “Huki”, as in “Huki Lau.” She answers to Huki now, no problem.

Susan Dixon  10/28/2014 6:48 pm

We rescued a 9 yr. old Goffin’s cockatoo with a broken leg a year ago who had been called “Bird”. She was so adorable that I just couldn’t bring myself to call her Bird. So I started calling her Dolly,. She began responding to it immediately. I believe that she likes her name as she always looks at me when I speak to her and comes when she’s called. I also renamed my ekkie from,Simon to Finnegan when I got him at age two. (He’s now seven.) He just didn’t look like a Simon, and I figured that he would probably live a long time with his new name. All my other birds have kept the names they arrived with.

Mo  10/28/2014 8:42 pm

i was asked to rescue a Senegal parrot out of my neighbour`s backyard. She wanted to keep him and named him Lucky, then he bit her, he was locked in his cage out of fear, and he now lives with me. I sometimes wonder if I ought to change his name, to give him a better connotation to my house and remove him from whatever past experiences he had. He still seems very troubled; i don`t blame him, since he`s been rehomed at least once that i know of.

Teri  10/30/2014 10:07 am

I have 3 African grays, all female. When we adopted Gabriel/Gabby at age 12, “he” didn’t seem to know his name. Not knowing any better, we never even thought about it being as issue to change it. We were at least her 3rd family, and not knowing her sex at the time we changed her name to Riley because it was dimorphic and Irish. Riley was the 2nd addition to our flock. Jill was adopted at 2 and as 8 when we got Riley, but never said her name either, although both responded when hearing their names. When we adopted Laylee at age 5, she already knew and said her name, so we kept it. She was the best talker, and it seemed like the older 2 “stepped up” to the competition and startedtalking more. After about a year all 3 birds were saying their own names, and each others names and nicknames! Now they carry on conversations with each other by name! Although Laylee usually refers to Riley as “Bird” – as in “good night Bird” – to which Riley replies “good night, Laylee”

Becky Wein  10/30/2014 2:25 pm

Would you believe my adopted Umbrella Cockatoo was named Lance? He never responded to that name so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty renaming him “Sunny”. He now says his name all the time and is a very happy, well-adjusted bird.

Jerry  10/30/2014 6:37 pm

Two Stories: Neither are adopted birds

1) We named our little peach faced lovebird Oscar when we first brought him home as a weaned baby 10 years ago. He best buddy Bucky (male parakeet) knew Oscar’s true identity immediately but it took us another three years to discover Oscar was a female when she laid her first egg. She remains Oscar, and responds to her name, although she does not really vocalize with words.

2) Our 7 year old Green Cheek Conure has always been Jake since we brought him home as a baby. However we sometimes corrupt that to Jacob. When doesn’t feel like coming when we call him Jake, he will correct us by replying Jacob….

DollarsMum  11/03/2014 4:11 pm

The Blue Fronted Amazon I adopted at age 6 is so attached to his name, “Dollar,” and has had such an attitude about being called “Dollar” that my attempts to change it have failed miserably. I do not know what his initial owner’s thoughts were in selecting such an unusual name, but found out his second owners maintained it as well. Now I know WHY: calling him anything but “Dollar” brings out in him a posture change–wherein he stretches as tall as he can while turning his head to glare at the false name caller, and gives an indignant and loud response, “DOLLARRR!” It’s as though he’s saying, “Really? Come oooon! You in competent human, you can’t even get my name right?” He also uses his name frequently in his speech. So, what’s a gal to do? Contrary to what you would think, he is a very loving bird–especially for his breed.

Gin  11/06/2014 11:43 pm

Our recent rescue, african grey congo, was named Phoebe, even though they knew he was a male. I easily changed it to PB. He responds. Our Timneh rescue was name Coy for 10 years. She never responded to it. One night after dive bombing the cat and my pot belly pig we called her a Twit! Now she’s known as Twitley and responds to it every time.I see no problem in changing names if they rhyme or are close. If the bird knows theiy name , responds , and refers that name to theirself, then keep it.

Gin  01/06/2015 10:02 pm

Another 3rd owner Timneh, she came with the name Coy, to which she didn’t respond at all, tried Cory, no response. One day she landed on the pet pig, went after the cat, and we said you’re such a Twit ! Hence, Twitley, to which she responds! Call Twitley and she comes out of her box. My Congo Paidan calls Twitley, she responds to her too! All circumstances are unique and only trial and error will tell.