About African Grey Parrots

Timneh African grey parrot

 African Grey Parrots

(Psittacus erithacus) - are prevelant in the primary and secondary rainforests of West and Central Africa.  These Red tailed parrots are also found on some islands located in the Gulf of New Guinea.

Due to habitat destruction and pet trade smuggling wild African Grey parrots populations are on the decline resulting in CITIES appendix II status, which restricts trade of wild caught parrots.

African Grey Parrot Identification:

Congo African Grey ParrotYou'll find two common subspecies available in the pet trade.  Congo African Grey Parrots, shown above, sport light gray feathering, black beak and a bright red tail. Congo African Grey's are larger than Timneh's, averaging a weight between 380 to 554 grams. Timneh African Grey Parrots, as shown on the right, are a darker, charcoal coloration with a maroon tail and horn colored beak.  They only weigh 300 to 360 grams. Both subspecies have white accents on the gray feathers and white skin around their eyes.

Sometimes, you'll see an African Grey Parrot with red feathers scattered throughout their plumage. Marketed as more exotic and desirable, these parrots may be called "King Grey's."  If the red feathers are scattered in areas throughout the grey feathers, they can be an indication of damaged feather follicles often caused by feather picking. Sometime the use of antibiotics during a molt causes temporary changes in feather coloration until the next subsequent molt.  Other causes of feather discoloration are sickness, malnutrition or over use of parrot supplements and vitamins.

Recently, breeders have introduced a red factor mutation in African Grey's. The first red mutation was introduced in 1998 when South African bird breeder Von van Antwerpen and New Zealand partner Jaco Bosman selected F2 Pieds and created the first red Grey Parrot.

African Grey Parrots as Pets:

Thought to be among the most intelligent of parrots, African Greys have an almost human-like ability to mimic speech.  They are not considered to be loud parrots, relatively speaking, and these pet birds generally have a gentle disposition. Intelligence, speech, and a reputation for gentleness are a few of the reason's people care about these parrots.  For those who have assessed their own long term capabilities to care for a parrot and who strive to  provide these parrots with a stimulating, interactive environment, African Grey Parrots make excellent pets. Even so, developing a trusting, mutually satisfying relationship with African Grey Parrots takes daily love, time and patience. If you talk among those who care-take an African Grey Parrot, you're bound to hear fun stories about how these parrots immitate general household beeps, cell phone ring tones and alarms.

You may have heard about two very admired African Grey Parrots. Dr. Irene Pepperberg has led a research team and published extensively on captive African Grey Parrots. Alex, a Congo African  Grey parrot, was purchased by Dr. Irene Pepperberg from a pet store in 1977 as part of a research project about parrot intelligence. Part of ground-breaking animal research, Alex was taught to name over 100 objects, identify colors and objects, count, and identify actions. Pepperberg's research has shown that these parrots are capable of associating human words with their meanings. Unfortunately, Alex passed away suddenly at age 30 in 2007. Einstein, viewed on You Tube, is another well known African Grey Parrot who demonstrates extraordinary talents.

While any parrot will have individual personality traits, as a rule there are some differences between Congo African Greys (CAGs) and Timnehs (TAGs). Timneh's tend to be more social and confident around families, strangers and new situations.  They are also thought to develop speech at a younger age than Congo's.  However, parrot behaviorist's attest that early socialization of an African Grey during it's toddler years early stages of development, plus, continued socialization throughout life, is the most important factor improving a nervous disposition.

Aspiring African Grey Parrot owners need to know that these very intelligent parrots become easily bored with inactivity and lack of enriching and foraging activities, quickly leading to behavior problems including feather picking and biting. A diligent care-taker will insure that their African Grey Parrot has plenty of appropriate bird toys and receives several hours of attention a day.

These intelligent birds are best suited to people who know about parrots and are familiar with their ongoing care requirements.

Smokey, Our African Grey

Sexing African Grey Parrots:

As a rule, female African Grey Parrots are smaller, with a more slender neck and narrow head.  Males, on the other hand are about 12-14 inches in length. Some experts hypothesize that sexing can be identified by the white patch around the eyes with the posterior area being pointed on the male and rounded on the female. Never the less, for accurate sexing, surgical DNA testing is recommended.

If you fulfill his or her needs, you will have a lifelong friend - as the lifespan of a Grey Parrot is up to 60 years. A big commitment, however, if you are a true parrot lover you will appreciate having a true friend for life.

Bird Training and Behavioral Guidance:

 While African Grey Parrots are amongst the easier parrots to keep as pets, like any intelligent pet, they are prone to challenging behaviors.  Misusing their beak has caused difficulties for many African Grey caretakers.  All parrots are known to be chewers and African Greys are no exception.  African Grey's may learn to bite in order to get what they want. It is very important to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has become a habit and to learn to read their body language. Understanding Parrot Body Language DVD is an invaluable bird training resource.

Never leave an African Grey Parrot out of its cage unattended.  These curious parrots need a lot of supervision when they are out of their bird cage. They regard anything as a toy to be explored or destroyed. They will even chew electrical wiring potentially causing severe burns or even a house fire!  We know this from firsthand experience!  Smokey burned his beak when he crawled off of his bird stand and stuck his beak in a light socket.

African Grey Parrot Food:

Indiginous to Africa, wild African Grey's primarily eat palm nuts, fruits and seeds.  They rely on green leafy matter for vitamins and nutrients along with occasional snails for protein. While it may be hard to find the exact palm nuts in your local grocery store, you can supplement a premium bird food pellet such as UnRuffledRx Red Palm Oil for Parrots. Goldenfeast Gardenflora Bird  Food provides vitamin rich leafy greens that are imperative for parrots.

Responsible African Grey Parrot care takers rely on a premium bird food pellet, palm oil supplements and lots of fresh food and vegetables.  However, some picky eaters may only want a bird seed African Greys that only eat bird seed diets tent to be afflicted with calcium deficiencies. Solutions may be to provide calcium rich vegetables, such as broccoli.  You can also scrape cuttlebone over their food or purchase a Calcium supplement.

In summary, African Grey Parrots do make good pets and do best when handled frequently and well socialized.


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