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African Grey Parrot egg

The African grey parrot ability to talk and mimic sounds makes this medium-sized parrot a captivating companion. African grey owners often report that their greys oftentimes talk in context and seem very attuned to their people’s emotions. The African grey parrot is not just a top talker — this bird is also known for its extreme intelligence, which gives them the moniker “The Einsteins of the Bird World.”

Name African Grey (Psittacus erithacus erithacus (Congo)) (Psittacus erithacus timneh (Timneh))
Origin Africa
Size Congos: 12-14″, 400-650 grams; Timnehs: 11-13″, 275-400 grams
Color Differences Congo greys are silver or light grey with bright red tail feathers and black beaks while timnehs are smaller and a dark charcoal color with maroonish tail feathers and a reddish cast to their beaks.
Owner African Greys require an experienced owner.
Average Cost $600-2000
Lifespan An average of 50 years
Noise African Greys are relatively quiet–they are not known to scream. For this reason, they are fine to keep in an apartment.
Qualities Great talkers, can imitate voices and sounds, very intelligent, highly tuned in to owners’ moods, known to be able to use speech in context, can be high strung and nervous (so you may need to be careful when introducing new toys or surroundings), not great for a household with young children (older children ok), tend to be a one-person bird unless well socialized, need an owner that is gentle, patient, and attuned to their needs, males can be more aggressive than females, can become feather pluckers out of boredom.
Abilities Excellent – Known for their talking abilities. African Greys are capable of learning a large vocabulary (some as much as 1,500 words!) as well as speaking in different voices and some use words in context.
Interaction/Time Requirements African Greys need daily interaction as well as socialization with other people (or they may become a one-person bird).

Speech and Vocalizations

Pet African greys pick up on words and sounds very quickly. One African grey has even “blown the whistle” on a woman’s love affair by repeatedly calling out the other man’s name in front of her husband and using the cheating wife’s voice.

Like toddler children, African grey parrots have a reputation for repeating everything they hear. So, it’s wise to watch your language around these birds. Greys are adept at picking up and repeating any sounds they like, including squeaky doors, vehicle back-up chimes, fire alarms, microwave alert bells, and telephone ringtones. Owners need to be vigilant about what these birds hear—once a sound is learned, it is difficult or impossible for the bird to “unlearn” it. 

The African grey is not known as a loud screamer. It can be suitable for owners living in apartments or condos, although neglected birds may scream their dissent for being ignored and can get noisy.

African Grey Parrot Colors and Markings

The African grey, true to its name, sports mostly grey feathers, some with a beautifully thin, pale edging. There are two subspecies, Congo and Timneh greys. Congos are about a third larger than Timnehs. Congo African greys boast shiny black beaks and bright red tail feathers, while Tinmeh greys have horn-colored mandibles and deep maroon tailfeathers.

You can tell males and females apart once the birds reach adolescence, at least 18 months of age. A male African grey’s tail will remain solid red, while a female’s red tail feathers become tipped with silver. The undersides of a male’s wings become dark, while a female’s remain light. Other subtle sex differences include: a male will have a more slender, narrower head, while females tend to have longer necks, with larger, rounder heads. If these differences are too subtle for you, you can get a definitive answer with a surgical sexing procedure or a DNA test.

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