African Grey Parrot

Genus: (Psittacus Erithacus)

The African Grey Parrot, also known as African grey or grey parrot, is a bird native to central Africa. The African Grey is most notable for its beautiful coat and charismatic nature. The bird is regarded as one of the most intelligent and accomplished birds due to its unique ability to mimic humans and objects. African Greys are the largest parrots in Africa.

Appearance of the African Grey Parrot

As evident from the name, The African grey parrot has a beautiful gray plumage. The bird has a white mask and thin, mostly gray feathers that are slightly darker on the tips. Notably, the African grey parrot has a striking red tail. Once the bird reaches adolescence, it is easy to differentiate between a male and a female. A male’s tail will remain red, while a female’s tail will be red with silver tips. Moreover, the underside of a male’s stomach turns darker, while a female’s tail stays light.

In captivity, African grey parrots can be completely one color, as owners through the 200 or more known years of breeding have purposely bred fully red birds.

African Grey Parrot With Red Tail
African Grey Parrot With Red Tail

African grey parrots are medium-sized parrots with adults typically measuring about 13-14 inches (33 cm) long. The bird typically weights 400 g, just under 1 lb, and has a wingspan about 18-20 in (46–52 cm). Both sexes appear similar in weight and height.

Habitat of the African Grey Parrot

The African Grey is native to central Africa and can be found in the lowland rain forests in western and central Africa such as Congo, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The bird prefers to inhabit the dense, wet forests, but they can also be found on the edges of forests, savannahs, and gardens. They play an important part in the dispersal of forest seeds.

African Grey Parrot Map
African Grey Parrot Map

Diet

African Grey Parrots have mostly vegetarian diets but can sometimes be found eating insects. In the wild, the birds commonly eat fruit, seeds, nuts, and berries. In captivity, African greys can be fed greens such as kale and spinach pellet supplements with various fruits or nuts.

Personality and Temperament

Aside from its striking color, the African Grey Bird is known for its vibrant personality. The charismatic bird is charming and its incredible ability to talk make it an entertaining pet. African Greys are known to be very aware of their surroundings and the emotions of others. Owners of the parrots report that the birds talk in context and mimic a natural conversation. In addition to its bubbly nature, the African Grey is highly intelligent and is often regarded as the “Einstein” of birds.

Because of their intelligent nature, African Grey Parrots require frequent attention. African Grey Parrots can be sensitive to their surroundings and rather demanding. Their intelligence means that owners have to keep the bird stimulated and engaged. If left unengaged, the birds can form bad habits such as chewing their feathers or destroying their cages. As a result, many bird lovers agree that only select bird owners should have African Grey Parrots. While their fun personalities and ability to talk make for excellent pets, an individual must ensure they can provide the bird with adequate attention.

Lastly, while the African Grey loves stimulation and attention, the bird does not love physical affection. The birds do not like to be cuddled much by their owners. African Greys can be partial to one owner and can become very attached to one person. If you want to know about a grey parrot that has become a star read on.

Sounds of the African Grey

As mentioned, the African Grey is famously known for its ability to talk. The parrots are known to repeat back nearly everything they hear, so you have to be careful what you say around them. The birds have an incredible vocabulary and can perhaps even understand what humans are saying. Research shows that some African Grey Parrots have even developed the ability to read. African Greys are not as loud as other parrots and rarely scream, but they still make many noises and often mimic sounds heard in your household such as the telephone or laundry machine.

African Grey Parrot in Captivity
African Grey Parrot

Family Life and Breeding

African Grey parrots are monogamous breeders; the birds carefully select mates and have lifelong partnerships with them. The bird breeds once to twice a year. Breeding season varies on location, but often occurs during the dry season. Females nest in tree cavities. They typically lay three to five eggs over the course of several days. The female incubates the eggs for 30 days. The male feeds the female and guards the nest. Once born, the parents typically care for their young for 5 weeks. After 12 weeks, the young typically leave the nest.

African Grey Parrot
African Grey Parrot

Domesticated African Grey Parrots

Although international conservation groups are considering an international ban on importing wild grey parrots, the millions of greys already in captivity need ample space to live, good nutrition and mental stimulus. Owners should to provide room in their cages for toys, activities and perches.

Experts suggest cages should have multiple perches outside the cage for the bird to perch while socializing with its owner. Many experts recommend buying the largest bird cage you can afford. As a guideline, pet shops recommend African Grey cages that are 37” wide, 25” deep, and 41” high. However if this is not possible a minimum cage size for an African Grey cage is 35” wide, 25” deep, and 37” tall. Slide out trays are easier to clean than static cages and will cause you and the African Grey less stress.

Owners are recommended to choose cages with feeder doors and entry doors that are designed with locking systems to prevent accidental escapes. Escaped birds can hurt themselves inside a house or outside in a world that’s strange to them.

Conservation Status

Psittacus Erithacus is an endangered species according to the ICUN. The natural predators of the specific include vultures and raptors; monkeys can target eggs and the young. In the wild, grey parrots are susceptible to various feather diseases, fungal infections, and tapeworms.

ICUN Red Flag Status
ICUN Red Flag Status

Humans, however, are the greatest threat to wild parrots. Unfortunately, there are no laws protecting African Grey Parrots.

In 2016 2016, the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned all international and local trade in African grey parrots.

“Parrots are hyper social,” explains primatologist and filmmaker Cintia Garai, who has spent the past few years in the DRC. “They roost communally and come down in flocks to clearings.” Trappers, she says, find these aggregations and can capture dozens of parrots at a time.

“Trappers also climb trees and use decoy parrots,” she adds. “They tie them on branches on the trees and use glue to capture the birds that come to socialize with this bird.”

Cintia Garai

The bird is often captured legally or illegally and traded in international pet trades. Between 60-90% of birds captured for trade due to poor conditions while being shipped for international trade. It is estimated that over 1.5 million grey parrots were exported between 1984 and 1992. Loss of habitat has also led to a decline in the parrot. As a result of these factors, the grey parrot has experienced a rapid population decrease.

A positive note is unlike Ghana, in Congo much of the forests of the grey parrot still exist, though due to the trade in grey parrots in neighbouring countries means the populations are low.

Extensive felling of grey parrots’ tall nesting trees, Terminalia superba and Ceiba pentandra plus the large trade in selling grey parrots is believed to be the reason for the massive decline of the grey birds in Ghana.

Fantastic Facts about African Grey Parrots

  • African greys can be known to outlive their owners. The bird on average lives 40 to 60 years in captivity.
  • African greys are known as the most intelligent bird of the parrot species.
  • While the birds have shown amazing abilities to mimic humans, African grey parrots have never been observed mimicking in the wild.

Q & A

How long do African grey parrots live in the wild?

In the wild, African greys live an average of 22 years.

How many words can African grey parrots learn?

Highly intelligent, the bird can learn hundreds of words and noises.

Do African grey parrots require exercises?

Yes. If you have a grey parrot as a pet, it’s suggested to engage the parrot in 1-2 hours of activity outside of their cage each day.

Are there subspecies of the bird?

Yes, there are several subspecies of the African Grey Parrot. Two of the most common are the Congo African grey and the Timneh African Grey.

Is there am African grey parrot in a rock band?

An African grey parrot is a singer in the grindcore, metal band Hatebeak. The band, made up of Blake Harrison and Mark Sloan have written songs such as ‘Number of The Beak’. Waldo the parrot squawks during the heavy guitar rifts. Other songs include: Beak of Putrefaction, Bird Seeds of Vengeance and The Thing That Should Not Beak. However the band don’t put the African grey parrot through stress of playing large crowds.

“We don’t play live,” explained drummer Blake Harrison in a 2004 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “It would be absolute torture for the bird to experience decibels at those levels.”

What Scientific class do African grey parrots belong in?

African grey parrots are in the class: Aves

Which scientific order do African grey parrots belong in?

African grey parrots are in Psittaciformes order.

Which phylum do African grey parrots belong in?

African grey parrots are in the phylum of chordata

What are the first training steps for a domesticated African grey parrot?

Breeders often say the ‘Step up,’ onto your hand and ‘Step down,’ command is a vital part of owning an African grey parrot. Without it you cannot move the bird from one place to another.

How long does it take to train an African grey parrot?

It takes 3 months to train an African grey parrot basic commands.

Are African grey parrots as intelligent as humans?

Irene Pepperberg of Harvard university carried out extensive research into the intelligence of African greys. Her well renowned research found African greys have can use vocabulary in clever ways, comparable with a two year old child.

Can African greys become good friends to humans?

It takes a long time but after a few years African Greys can become life long friends with their owner.

How many African greys are left?

According to Nat Geo over 1.3 million African greys have been smuggled out of Africa in the last 40 years, though estimates are up to 8 million are alive in total.

Are African grey parrots friendly?

African greys have a reputation of being friendly to owners and birds alike. They are even known to share scarce supplies of food with their mates.

A Look At The African Grey Parrot in The Wild

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