What Do You Know About The African Grey Parrot

African Grey Parrots

African Grey Parrots

  See the photo slide to see the two-parrots.

What Do You Know About The African Grey Parrot

In this article I am going to cover the African Grey Parrot. Did you know although there a several subspecies of the African Grey Parrot, only two subspecies are universally accepted? In this article I will cover the two universally accepted subspecies. The African Grey Parrot is an amazing creature. This is a highly intelligent bird that can speak up to 2,000 words and mimic most any sound they hear. This parrot is so smart they have to be given things to do to keep them busy and challenged. I will cover both subspecies below. This is a rather long article. At the end of this page you will see a link to page two of this article so please be sure to read both pages.

The African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is a medium-sized parrot endemic to primary and secondary rainforest of West and Central Africa. The African Grey is known as one of the most intelligent of all birds or for that fact of any animal. In the wild their primary food source includes palm nuts, seeds, fruits, leafy matter, and even snails. They present with an overall gentle nature. Their strong ability to mimic speech has made the African Grey a very popular pet bird. Many inexperienced bird owners purchase this wonderful species of parrot as a pet for their talking abilities. Unfortunate for the African Grey, this is a huge mistake. These birds are so intelligent they become bored very easily and need lots of interactive time and stimulation that often is not provided by their owners. This in the long run can cause severe behavioral problems.

There Are Two African Grey Parrot Subspecies Universally Accepted:
The two-subspecies are the Congo African Grey and the Timneh African Grey . Below I have included a picture of each subspecies. Please take notice of the following pictures and descriptions while viewing the pictures. It will be easy for you to tell the two-subspecies apart from each other.


See slide show photos!

Taxonomy and Systematic:
Congo African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus):
The Congo African Grey Parrot is the nominate subspecies. This bird is larger than the Timneh African Grey at about 33 cm (13 in) long. The Congo has light grey feathers, cherry red tail feathers, and an all black beak. The younger (immature) birds of this subspecies have tails with a darker, duller red towards the tip. The color changes after their first molt that usually occurs at about 18-months of age. The Congo's initially have grey irises that change to a pale yellow color by the time it reaches one-year of age. The Congo grey parrot is found on the islands of Príncipe and Bioko and is distributed from south-eastern Ivory Coast to Western Kenya, Northwest Tanzania, Southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Northern Angola.

Timneh African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus timneh):
The Timneh African Grey Parrots are smaller in size than the Congo Grey's. They have darker charcoal grey colored feathers. Rather than bright red tail feathers this species has darker maroon colored tail feathers. This bird has a light, horn-colored area to part of the upper beak. The Timneh grey parrot is endemic to the western parts of the moist Upper Guinea forests and bordering savannas of West Africa from Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Southern Mali east to east of the Bandama River in the Ivory Coast. As pets, Timneh's begin learning to speak earlier than Congo's, and are often said to be less nervous around strangers and other family members although the Congo African Grey is more popular as a pet bird out of these two-subspecies.

Status and Conservation
The African Grey is now considered to be rarer than previously believed. Grey's have uplifted from a species of Least Concern to Near Threatened in the 2007 IUCN Red List. Analysis have suggested up to 21% of the global population of the African Grey Parrots may be taken from the wild annually and this is primarily for the pet trade.

The African Grey Parrot is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In the United States, importation of wild-caught African Grey's is prohibited under the U.S. Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. In the European Union, an EU Directive of 2007 prevents importation of this and any other "wild-caught" bird for pet trade.

African Grey Parrot Mimicry and Intelligence
African Grey parrots are considered to be the best talking of any parrots. Wild African Grey's have been documented imitating the calls of many other species of birds.

Grey's have been studied using scientific standards and are proven to be the most intelligent animal species. African Grey's have scientifically been proven to associate human words with meanings. Moreover; they are able to apply concepts such as shapes, colors, and numbers.

It has been documented by scientist that Grey's can perform cognitive task up to and beyond the level of dolphins, chimps and even human toddlers. There is of course some skepticism about the human toddler aspect of studies but this is an area that has been scientifically studied.

Compared to the Timneh African Grey parrot, the Congo African Grey parrots start talking a bit slower. Normally the Congo Grey will start talking at about two to three-years of age. The Timneh Grey's normally begin to talk at a younger age.

Both subspecies present with the same ability and tendency to talk in the terms of human speech. You must be aware however this is dependant on each individual bird. No Grey or any other parrot for that matter is guaranteed to be a talker. This is why most that choose the African Grey for a pet have picked this species of parrot. This should not be the decision making factor when choosing a pet bird but unfortunately many base their decision on this.

Noises of the African Grey
African Grey's are masters at mimicking most any noises they hear around the home. They mimic the telephone, microwaves, alarm clocks, dripping water, wild birds, video games and most any other noises frequently heard around the home. Just a few noises of their arsenal include:

  • Whistles
  • Shrieks
  • Squeaks
  • Clicks
  • Many others

One must be able to respect the natural quality the Grey's posses and be able to tolerate the noises the Grey presents with in order to have one as a pet. Often times people will choose this parrot species for a pet without the understanding of the natural noise making abilities then not be able to tolerate the Grey as a pet.

African Grey Aviculture
The African Grey is a very sociable and intelligent parrot. They make excellent pets for the experienced pet bird owner although if new to pet birds, one should consider a smaller bird to start with. African Grey's have a very strong and devoted following among experienced pet bird owners.

African Grey's are extremely intelligent thereby they require a special commitment by owners. This bird bores quite easily so it is a must to have frequent owner-bird interaction. They must be provided supervised time out of the cage and be given ample things to keep them busy. It is necessary to provide plenty of safe but destructible toys, climbing objects and activities to keep the bird busy and stimulated.

Many parrot species are housed in cages far too small. Grey's require a large cage, the recommended cage size for Grey's is 36 inches long X 36 inches wide X 40 inches high. The Grey should be able to completely stretch and flap its wings without any obstructions.

Many new pet bird owners make the mistake of feeding store bought bird seed as the main diet. The African Grey requires a special diet not just store bought seed. The Grey's diet should consist of:

  • Grains - Breads and Cereal - Whole wheat bread, Cooked brown rice, Commercial Monkey biscuit, Wheat Germ, and other whole grain products.
  • Fresh Vegetables and Fruits -Broccoli, Endive, Carrots, Parsley, Pumpkin, Winter Squash, Collard Greens, Sweet potato, Corn, Peas, Beans, Kale, Lima Beans, Black Eye Peas. - Apples, Bananas, Grapes, Strawberries, Cherries, Oranges, Figs, Kiwi, Mango, Papaya, Peaches, Pears. DO NOT FEED AVOCADO'S - THIS IS TOXIC TO GREY'S!
  • Meats - Hard cooked or scrambled eggs, Peanuts or other mature legumes (navy beans, kidney beans), Beef, Chicken, Tuna or other fish.
  • Dairies - (Not Milk) Small amounts of yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard cheeses.

If the African Grey is not provided with ample interactive time, socialization, destructible toys and a proper diet you may be surprised with behavioral problems such as feather plucking, aggression and even health problems. Should you allow it to get this point, the situation can be very difficult to handle. Due to the intelligence of this bird, the bird has to be treated as part of the family with the proper amounts of stimulation and interaction.

In closing of this article it is important to note, when you acquire an African Grey Parrot or any other similar species of parrot, it is a life-long commitment. These birds live a very long time and perhaps will outlive you. These birds take commitment that never ends. You must be a devoted bird owner to handle a pet such as this. These are expensive pets, demanding and take a lot of your personal time. Please do your research and be very sure this is the type of pet you want and don't purchase one on a whim.

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Comments 2 comments

i scribble profile image

i scribble 6 years ago

I am a big fan of African Greys althouth I don't own any birds. I am a dog person and have 2 beagles. I am very interested in animal intelligence and animal language. I wrote my first hub on Alex the African Grey, whose story inspired my admiration of the species. I just wrote a hub on Batyr the talking elephant which I invite you to check out. I am joining your fan club and plan to check out your blog. Are you a pet store owner or just an animal enthusiast? What pets do you have personally, and where is La Porte?


Norm 4 years ago

I have 2 Greys and concur that to own them just because they can talk is a bad idea. They communicate in many ways. While they are indeed wild, they want love and affection. But they do not see you as their owner, the birds see you as their equal and a part of their flock. I have talked my friends out of buying one because the fascination with talking birds will not be sustained as work cleaning up after them is never ending. My wife and I love our Greys, and accept them for who and how they are. How they are is not for everyone!

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    Congo African Grey

    Congo African Grey Hea Shot

    Timneh Afrcian Grey

    Timneh African Grey Head Shot

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