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African Grey Parrot – Everything You Need to Know About 

African Grey Parrot

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Did you know that the African grey parrot is “the Einstein of the bird world”? This genius bird species is gifted with excellent talking abilities.

There’s no wonder why their popularity skyrocketed, and they’ve established a good reputation in the avian community.

Do you want to know more about these birds and planning to adopt one? You came to the right place because that’s what we will focus on in this guide!

In particular, you’ll learn about African greys’:

  • Origin and natural habitat and how to take care of them to help him thrive despite the captivity
  • Types of African grey and the features and characteristics that set them apart
  • The proof that their talking abilities are truly A+ to help you realize their potential

African greys are spectacular in many ways. But we’ll also share their downside so you’ll know the challenges you’ll have to deal with in the future.

So, let’s get a close-up look at African Grey’s world. There are so many things to discover about this species.

African Grey Species Overview

Scientific name:  Psittacus erithacus
Lifespan:  30+ years
Size:  12.9 inches (Mediums-sized)
Weight:  2.5 pounds
Intelligence rate:  Similar to a 5-year-old child
Talking Abilities:  Talkative and can mimic sounds

 

What is African Grey Parrot?

African birds are grey parrots with white masks and grey plumage with white accents on a scallop feather pattern and red tail.

They’re the genius of the bird world because of their excellent ability to talk, which is frequently in context and logic. 

There are two types of African Grey:

If want to have the African Grey parrots as pet birds, you need to know that there are two types to choose from:

1. Congo African Grey (CAG or Psittacus erithacus erithacus)

congo african greyThis African grey is more popular in the pet trade due to its larger size and bright red tail.
It’s also known as Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, and Angola grey.

The feathers of the Congo African grey bird start darker on the head and gradually get lighter until they are a pale silvery grey near the chest and legs.

If you look closely, many silver feathers have the same white tips as the darker ones, giving the impression of having a white-scalloped edge.

Their primary coverts are dark grey to almost black, and the wings are darker. The eye region is a dazzling white skin patch without any feathers.

“Blushing” refers to the white patch of skin turning pink on grey parrots. The Congo Grey parrot’s vivid red tail is the most impressive finishing touch. The toenails and beaks are also black.

Size: 14 to 16 inches
Wingspan: 18 to 20 inches
Weight: 350 to 650 grams

2. Timneh African Grey (TAG or Psittacus erithacus timneh)

Timneh African greyTimneh Greys originate from Ivory Coast and Liberia. They are slightly darker than those from the Congo.

The gray feathers on its head, back, and upper chest are darker, while the feathers on its belly form a distinctive “V” shape over a lighter shade of grey.

On the Timneh, the white scalloping on the head feathers is also more noticeable. Its dark grey feathers have a bluish hue in some lighting.

The tail feathers range in color from dark red to brown or maroon, and the undertail-coverts are stained with dark red or maroon.

The TAG’s beak feature pink-horn color with blackish sides on the Maximilla, while its mandible is black.

Size: 9 to 11 inches from beak to tail
Wingspan: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 250 to 375 grams

These African parrots both have the intellectual capacity of a 5-year-old child, and their emotional level is comparable to a 2-year-old child. But Timneh has a more stable personality since they have a faster maturation rate.

But their Congo cousins can be just as stable with the help of encouragement and nurturing.

Regarding its talking ability, Timneh can start speaking short sentences as early as six months of age, while Congo starts talking when they’re one year old.

Origin and Natural Habitat of African Grey Parrot

As the name suggests, African greys are native to the West and Central Africa range. The Congo African grey comes from Congo, but they can also be found in the southeastern Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

On the other hand, Timneh African grey parrots are commonly seen in the small region along Ivory Coast’s western edge and through southern Guinea.

These birds nestle and thrive in savannas, coastal mangroves, dense forests, and edges of forest clearings. 

African Grey Parrot’s Behavior and Personality

Most bird keepers think that an expert bird enthusiast should only keep a grey. They are sophisticated parrots that are nevertheless rather sensitive and demanding. 

They are charming and intelligent, but their combination of sensitivity and intelligence can cause behavioral problems. 

Since they’re creatures of habit, a sensitive grey might become upset by even the slightest deviation in routine. 

Among other unpleasant habits, they are prone to feather plucking and gnawing. 

According to anecdotal evidence, the TAG has a tougher attitude and may be more suitable for houses with many visitors. The CAG prefers a little less chaos.

Despite not being “cuddle bugs,” African greys are social parrots requiring much human interaction. 

They will tolerate light head scratches and petting but do not enjoy intense physical contact, though some individuals don’t mind a little snuggling. 

Every bird has unique preferences and tastes. Even if every household member socializes with the grey from the start, it still has the potential to become a “one-person bird.”

How Messy are African Greys?

These parrots can be very messy because they tend to poop a lot and tear up their toys.

So, you’d have to clean their cage daily, replace their food and water and provide durable toys and perches.

African grey parrot close up

Talking Abilities of African Grey Parrots

Now let’s get into the African grey’s talking abilities. These parrots can repeat words and phrases after hearing them twice. So it’s safe to say that African greys are among the best takers in the parrot family. 

Do All African Greys Talk?

Most African greys can talk. In fact, one of the reasons why they’re so charismatic is their ability to speak and mimic words and sounds. 

But even if they can learn some words on their own, you need to teach them so they can have a more expansive vocabulary. 

What Age Does African Grey Talk?

African greys usually start talking when they’re around 12 or 18 months. They can pronounce some words and mimic sounds earlier, but the real talking and chatting begin later. 

Are African Grey Parrots Noisy?

These talkative birds do tend to chatter throughout the day. But they can be very loud if they want to. 

They’re highly interactive, and they want to connect with their owners. So, they usually start screeching to get your attention and check up on you.

They may also get loud when hungry, bored, or frustrated. 

African greys love mimicking noises, so be ready because they can get obnoxious sometimes. 

The more they hear sounds and noises, the more they’ll imitate them. 

Do African Greys Scream a Lot?

Africa greys aren’t loud screamers. They’re quieter than other species, but if you’d put them in a noisy and stressful environment, they’ll probably scream a lot. 

If that happens, what should you do?

How Do I Stop My African Grey from Screaming?

Here are some tips you can try to stop your birds from screaming.

1. Keep your birds well fed. 

Your bird may be loud because they’re hungry. So, make sure you’re giving him the right and healthy food.

Sugar or foods with caffeine can make them hyperactive, stressed, and crank, so better avoid feeding them with that stuff.

2. Engage with them.

Playing with the birds helps them stay in a chill mode, and when they’re exhausted, they should feel relaxed.

3. Have an outdoor aviary.

Your African greys will love it if you can give them an outdoor aviary with toys that looks similar to their home in the wild. 

4. Establishing a little bit of routine.

Just like toddlers, birds may have tantrums as well. But if you spend time with your avians and establish a routine regarding feeding and playing, you may be able to cohabitate and stay in tune with them. 

5. Provide lots of toys and foraging materials

If you’d give them toys and foraging toys, they can be busy and stimulated, and they may stop screaming.

African Grey Parrot’s Intelligence

Many Parrots, like African Greys, can talk. But what makes African Greys more special? 

Their innate high intelligence is on par with a 5-year-old child. That’s quite a feat for a bird.

They’re the smartest parrot in the world.

But what makes these birds even more interesting is they don’t just mimic sounds; they appear to understand the meaning of words. 

They can speak foreign languages, tell jokes, count numbers, and identify colors, shapes, and materials. On top of that, African Greys can build logical sentences and express their thoughts.

Birds Shat Showed Impressive Intellect

And several anecdotal pieces of evidence prove that these birds are as brilliant as a 5-year-old human. 

One is Alex; a Congo African Grey bought by Dr. Irene Pepperberg from a pet store in Chicago in 1997.

Dr. Pepperberg studied the bird for 30 years at Brandeis University and trained him using positive behavioral reinforcement. She taught him to identify and recognize objects, colors, and shapes. 

He learned about 50 object names and over 100 words in the English language.

Alex could also count to six, correctly label objects of 5 shapes and seven colors, and differentiate groups of things using color, material, and shape.

He’s the only bird who has ever asked his owner what color he was. 

The brilliant Alex used English to communicate with other birds in Pepperberg’s lab. 

Thanks to him, the theory that birds can only mimic human voices was proved wrong, and African greys’ reputation and popularity skyrocketed.

Sadly, he passed away in 2007 at the young age of 31 due to arteriosclerosis. 

But the good news is his fellow African greys named Griffin and Arthur have continued his legacy. They’re working with Dr. Pepperberg to reach and hopefully transcend Alex’s level.

Other African Greys with High Intellect

Another impressive African Grey is Pepper, who complimented his owner’s husband, saying, “Carl, you’re good like cake.” 

In addition to identifying her favorite foods and commodities, Pepper could also accurately describe objects and people.

Rafiki was another exceptional African Grey Parrot raised by LeAnne Summers, a nurse from Ontario, Canada.

Rafiki has a great sense of humor and a vast vocabulary. Even his own jokes may make him laugh.

Felix deserves mention too! He’s a 6-year-old Congo African Grey owned by Nancy Gallegos from Illinois, U.S.

Felix was able to construct logical words and statements. He enjoys writing songs as a form of entertainment.

And now he is currently practicing other skills like counting and the alphabet.

African gray parrot's mating behavior

Mating Behavior and Reproduction

African Grey parrots are monogamous. They begin searching for a mate at three to five years old. And when they finally find their pair, they’ll look for pre-existing tree cavities where they’ll make a nest and lay their eggs. 

The female African grey will then incubate the eggs. But both parents are attentive to their chicks and tend to their needs by providing food for them. 

African grey parrot's common health issue

African Grey Lifespan

How long do African greys live? Well, these birds can live up to 30 years. Some have even lived beyond 40 to 60 years in captivity. Awesome, right? 

But this long lifespan also means that keeping an African grey is a lifelong commitment because they can even outlive you when cared for properly.

You’ll have to sacrifice time, money, and resources in raising this parrot bird. 

But aside from diet and nutrition, what factors could shorten their lifespan? You’ll discover it below. 

Common Health Problems of African Grey Parrot

These parrot birds are prone to developing the following health issues:

Feather Picking

Excessive feather picking is a common issue in African greys caused by stress, depression, or lack of stimulation. 

It could also be due to an illness or pain, so it’s best to take your pet to the vet to know if there’s an underlying medical issue. 

You have to ensure he gets the proper diet, enough sunlight, and toys that can entertain them. 

Vitamin-A and Vitamin-D Deficiency

Did you know that vitamin A is critical for an avian’s healthy immune system? 

The symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include sneezing, nasal discharge, poor feather quality, polyuria and polydipsia, feather picking, and anorexia.

The treatment involves:

  • Injecting or supplementing the bird with vitamin A.
  • Treating the secondary infections.
  • Using a high-quality pelleted diet. 

African greys can produce their own vitamin D with the help of UV light so getting enough natural sunlight is crucial. 

If your bird lacks in vitamin D3, too, they’ll need liquid vitamins or powdered supplements to help absorb calcium better. 

Respiratory Infections

The main culprits of respiratory infections are bacteria like Chlamydia and Mycoplasma. 

If your bird loses appetite, has difficulty breathing or is breathing rapidly, sneezes and coughs, is inactive, and has a bluish tint on the skin and mucous membranes, it’s best to bring him to the vet immediately.

Psittacosis

It’s another respiratory infection that affects African Greys and spreads to humans. 

The symptoms of this condition include:

  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • trouble breathing
  • nasal discharge
  • ruffled feathers
  • green or yellow diarrhea
  • severe weakness
  • trembling
  • swelling around their eyes

If you notice those clinical signs, bring your pet to the vet so he can run diagnostic tests and treat the secondary infections.

Beak and feather disease

Psittacine beak and feather virus is common among cockatoos, lovebirds, African grey, and cockatiels

It’s contagious. That’s why infected birds should undergo isolation. Supportive care and a stress-free environment can extend the bird’s life for quite some time. 

But sadly, there’s no treatment for the disease, and it can be fatal. 

Care tips for African grey parrots

African Grey Parrot Care Tips and Guide

Here are some tips on how to raise an African grey parrot.

African Grey’s Exercise

To maintain African grey’s mental health, you should allow them to have a break outside their cage to explore. 

How long should an African Grey be out of its cage?

Pet birds like African greys need at least 1 to 2 hours of vigorous exercise outside their cage. 

African gray parrot eating food

African Grey Parrot’s Diet and Nutrition

Since African gray parrots are prone to Vitamin A deficiency, they’ll benefit from eating foods with loads of beta-carotene like sweet potato and fresh kale. 

On the other end, Vitamin D deficiency is a result of a poor diet. So they need a diet of fruits, leaves, insects, flowers, and barks to stay healthy.

The recommended food for African Grey parrots in captivity is high-quality pellets and fruits like organic mango, pomegranate, and melon. 

In addition to that, they need fresh vegetables such as arugula, kale, and sprouts and nutritious seeds like hemp and flaxseed. 

To make the food more interesting, you may create a salad for your bright bird to keep him thriving and growing. 

Your pet bird will love it too if you’d share your breakfast toast and salad with them or reward them with treats like nuts and healthy foods like steamed green buns.

Give your African Grey a 1/2 cup of parrot pellet mix and 1/4 cup of fruits daily. Then adjust the amount based on his appetite. 

toys for African grey parrot

Mentally-Stimulating Toys

Brilliant-minded birds need constant mental stimulation. So, if you’re planning to keep an African grey or already have one, don’t forget to give him plenty of mentally-challenging toys like foraging and puzzle toys. 

You may also give them treats like Nutri Berries, which offers a quality blend of grains, and seeds in the form of a berry. It resembles the food they get in the wild. 

So, they’ll surely enjoy nibbling one. 

Housing of the African Grey Parrot

Another basic necessity you have to provide is the cage or housing.

What size cage do African greys need?

African Gray parrots are medium-sized, but they need a spacious cage measuring around 36″ X 24″ x 48″ to be comfortable. 

But if you want to make your bird happier, you must provide a bigger one so he can have enough space to move, climb and fly. 

Should I cover my African grey at night?

Most birds will be fine without being covered, as long as they’re in the dark, quiet place at night. However, it all comes down to your parrot’s personality. 

Some parrots like having a cage cover at night because it blocks ambient light, similar to a nest cavity. It also helps keep out natural light during long summers and reduces their night frights, enabling them to rest easily. 

However, other parrots are afraid of the dark. Furthermore, it restricts airflow and makes the birds feel stressed because they feel trapped. 

Furthermore, birds like African grey produce lots of parrot dust that protects them from water, wear and tear. 

During molting season, the dust disperses into the environment when the birds shed off their feathers. 

And a dust cover can trap the dust in the cage and cause respiratory issues. 

What kind of toys do African grey parrots like?

These parrots love toys they can chew, swing, and climb on. They enjoy puzzles too that contain treat and challenge their intellect. 

How often should African grey shower?

Birds in their natural habitat take a shower daily, so you should offer your African grey a bath every day. 

Many birds enjoy bathing every day, which is beneficial because it can make their feathers and skin look healthier. 

But others prefer bathing occasionally. 

African grey parrot for sale

Where to Buy or Adapt African Grey Parrots

You may find African grey for sale at local breeders near you, but you must see it first-hand before purchasing. 

Look out for breeders who avoid questions and don’t have complete information about the birds. 

You should also avoid inactive birds and those living in an unhealthy environment. 

It’d be best if you’ll get your African grey from rescues or adoption organizations and quality breeders like: 

  • Beauty of Birds List of Breeders
  • Lonely Grey Rescue
  • Bird Breeders

What is the best age to buy an African grey parrot?

African greys reach their full maturity at 4 to 6 years old, but most experts recommend adopting this kind of bird when they’re 2 to 6 months old. 

Why? If you’ll raise a young African grey by yourself and feed him, you’ll be able to develop a stronger bond.

However, raising a young parrot is more challenging than keeping a fully grown one. 

So, you must be ready for the responsibility of tending to your bird’s needs when planning to adopt an African grey.

African Grey Cost

You may be wondering, “how much does an African grey parrot cost?”

African grey parrot price will vary depending on the type, age, and gender, but you can expect to pay around $500 to $4,000 for a best-in-class, quality bird from breeders. 

Their prices are higher. But on the brighter side, they usually offer free shipping, travel cages, and toys.

You can save a considerable amount if you’re going to adopt one. These birds are often bought by people who don’t have the time and resources to commit to them. 

Adoption may cost you around $500 to $1,000, but it’s still an excellent African gray parrot price. More importantly, these birds are already accustomed to humans, so it should be easier for you to handle them.

Conserving African grey parrots

African Grey Parrot’s Conservation Status

In 2003, the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) study estimated that around 660,000 African Greys were sold in the international market from 1982 to 2001. And there are approximately 300,000 birds who probably died during the capture or transport. 

In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN) listed both Congo and Timneh African Grey as “vulnerable” in their Red List of Threatened Species.

To protect these species, the United States banned the importation of wild-caught African Grey specimens in 1992 under the Wild Bird Conservation Act. 

Furthermore, the European Union banned the importation of wild-caught African Greys in 2006.

Unfortunately, they’re still widely traded in the Middle East, East Asia, and Africa.

In the early 21st century, estimates of the entire wild population went as high as 13 million. However, there’s no detailed survey about African Greys since these birds inhabit remote, frequently unstable political areas.

Common questions about African grey parrots

Common Questions About African Grey Parrots

Is an African grey parrot a good pet?

African greys make excellent pets because of their affectionate nature and intelligence, but they’re considered high-maintenance birds. Their ability to mimic sounds, learn phrases, and bond with their owners make them rewarding to keep. 

Is an African grey parrot good for beginners?

These parrots aren’t the best bird choice for beginners because they’re brilliant and need a lot of mental stimulation. They also have a sensitive nature and can be very demanding. That’s why they’re best suited for experienced avian keepers with lots of patience. 

Do African grey parrots love their owners?

Parrots like African greys can bond well with their owners. These birds can grow to be extremely sweet and affectionate. Some even consider their humans as members of their flock. But it takes time, training, and effort to build the relationship. 

Do African grey parrots bite?

Yes, African greys tend to bite or become aggressive when fearful, hurt, or scared. And when they’re frightened, they may incur further damage to themselves.

You must be careful when handling them because they may hurt you too.

Can African greys stay alone?

Some African greys can survive being alone for up to 8 hours, but others need more attention and can be left alone for just a few hours.

Each bird has its own individual need, so it should be easier to figure out how your pet feels when you spend time getting to know them.

Which is better: male or female African grey parrot?

Male and female Congo African greys look identical because they’re monomorphic, and both sexes can learn to talk. Some may think males are more aggressive, but you have to know that females can be territorial too. So, it all comes down to your personal bird sex preference. 

How do I bond with my African grey parrot?

You can bond with your brilliant parrot by letting him participate in your activities throughout the day and putting the African grey cage in a room where he can witness your family’s activity. It’d help if you’d introduce him to new people and situations. 

Why do African greys bob their head?

Head bobbing in parrots may imply they’re afraid or anxious to go somewhere. It may also indicate that they want your attention and wish to bond with you.

How do you play with an African grey?

There are many ways to bond with them, like doing something they love, whether it’s whistling a tune, singing a song, or playing with toys. It can also teach new words, make silly faces, and give a special treat. 

What should I know before buying an African grey parrot?

One of the most important things you should know is that African grey needs 10 to 12 hours of sleep. So, expect to see them sleeping from sunset to sunrise. Caring for this kind of parrot can be costly too. 

How do I know if my African grey is happy?

You’ll know if your African grey is happy and healthy if he stands upright on his perch and has relaxed feathers. Purring, beak grinding, head bowing and regular preening are also signs that he’s in good shape. 

African grey parrot playing

African Grey Final Thoughts

So, would you pursue adopting or buying an African grey parrot, or would you rather not?

This bird species is beyond amazing in many ways, and they can make an excellent feathery companion. However, raising African greys require lots of time, effort, and money.

They can easily fall into depression and may develop aggressive behavior if they lack mental stimulation. So, you must spend time playing with them and keeping them occupied.

Having an intelligent bird can be entertaining and rewarding too. But since this genius bird species need a lifetime commitment, you have to weigh in carefully if you can commit before purchasing that Grey parrot with a red tail.

If you feel like an African Grey is a high-maintenance bird to keep, check out this low-maintenance mini parrot that can surely brighten up your home and aviary!

READ NEXT: Parakeets: Everything You Need to Know

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