African Grey Parrots

Wonderful AfricanGreys
They Are Delightful!. Tandi Reed / EyeEm/Getty Images

Common Names:

African Grey Parrot, Congo African Grey, Timneh African Grey, CAG, TAG

Scientific Name:

Psittacus erithacus erithacus (Congo Grey) and Psittacus erithacus timneh (Timneh Grey). Indexed in Joseph M. Forshaw's encyclopedic book, Parrots Of The World as the Grey Parrot.

Origin:

Africa

Size:

Approximately 12 to 13 inches from beak to tail. The African Grey is considered a large bird and as such must be provided with adequate living space.

Average Lifespan:

African Greys, when properly cared for typically live to be around age 50. There are, however, individuals that live long past this time, some even closing in on 75 although this is fairly rare. 

Temperament:

Most African Greys are extremely intelligent birds, a fact which becomes evident upon observing their behavior. Many grow to be extremely sweet and affectionate toward their owners, and the species is known for being rather sociable. A bored or neglected African Grey, however, is often not a very happy bird, and will not hesitate to air its grievances when given the opportunity. These birds require toys, regular interaction, stimulating opportunities to socialize with their human flock as well as fresh food in order to live well in captivity. 

Colors:

The African Grey, true to it's name, sports mostly grey feathers, some with a beautiful thin, pale edging. Congo African Greys boast shiny black beaks and bright red tail feathers, while the Tinmeh Greys have horn colored mandibles and tailfeathers of deep maroon.

Congo African Grey Parrots are about a third larger than Timnehs. 

Feeding:

As with most exotic bird species, a meal consists of fresh vegetables including leafy greens such as arugula, watercress, kale, sprouts, and healthy seed like hemp and flax seed. Chop will help keep your Grey healthy and thriving.

Fruits such as pomegranate, organic mango and melon supplemented with a quality formulated pelleted diet is best for the African Grey. Many Greys also enjoy a variety of treats and snacks such as nuts, healthy table food like steamed green beans, breakfast toasts and the occasional bit of your leftover salad would be nirvana for these beautiful birds. 

Exercise:

Adequate amounts of exercise are crucial to maintain the health of a companion African Grey. Pet Greys should be allowed to spend a minimum of one to two hours out of their cages daily, and should be provided with plenty of bird safe chew toys to facilitate exercising their powerful beaks.

African Greys as Pets:

African Grey parrots have been kept as pets for many thousands of years. Their fascinating ability to reason and talent for clearly mimicking human speech as well as understand it has helped to catapult them to stardom both in the field of research and in the pet trade.

Captive African Greys typically pick up on words and sounds very quickly, with owners reporting birds that mimic the sounds of telephones, microwaves, and even other pets like dogs and cats. One African Grey has even been credited with "blowing the whistle" on a woman's love affair by repeatedly calling out the other man's name in front of her husband using the cheating wife's voice!

Much like small toddlers, African Greys have a reputation for repeating everything they hear, so it's no wonder that many Grey owners are careful to watch their language around their pets! Greys are adept at picking up sounds they like, be it a squeaky door, a truck alarm altering that it is backing up or a fire alarm. Their environment dictates what they learn. So be vigilant about what they hear, especially foul language. 

While the African Grey is perhaps one of the most intelligent parrot species, their high level of intelligence means that they require more time from their owners than some smaller birds. They thrive when given challenges and are stimulated by training and participating in fun activities.  Toys, training using applied behavior analysis techniques, positive reinforcement training and direct attention as well as ambient attention.

Properly cared for Greys often bond strongly to their owners, and become affectionate and captivating pets. But it takes a committed companion bird family to ensure that your African Grey lives well and thrives.

Edited by: Patricia Sund