The African grey (Psittacus erithacus) parrot, originally from central Africa, is a highly intelligent bird, now commonly bred in captivity as a pet. This elegant medium-sized bird is entirely grey with a strikingly red, short blunt tail. The African grey has a charming personality and is recognized as one of the best talkers among all pet parrots. With this extraordinary ability to imitate, some African greys develop extensive vocabularies of words, songs, verses, whistles, sneezes, coughs, and electronic sounds such as telephones and microwave ovens. Some individuals, especially if they are older, wild-caught birds, or were improperly socialized, may have unacceptable, often loud vocalizations. The sound that a frightened, defensive, or timid African grey makes is a characteristic loud growl.
"African greys bond readily, often with one member of the family or specifically to males or females."
African greys bond readily, often with one member of the family or specifically to males or females. This one-on-one bond can occasionally lead to aggression towards others. These handsome, good-natured birds make excellent companions and family pets for people who have the time to spend with these very social creatures. When handled often, African greys are generally interactive and affectionate. They will often persistently solicit petting and head scratches. African greys are very playful and enjoy climbing and chewing. It is important to keep these smart birds busy, as boredom can lead to problems such as feather picking and screaming. Providing non-toxic, commercially available wooden branches sold in most pet stores, as well as other parrot-safe toys that promote chewing, will afford many hours of entertainment and exercise for this inquisitive pet.
There are two types of African grey parrots: the large grey Congo African grey, with a bright red tail, and the smaller, darker grey-colored Timneh African grey, with a maroon-colored tail.
Obtaining an African grey parrot
African greys may be purchased from pet stores, reputable breeders, or adopted from numerous rescue facilities. Young birds may be easier to tame and train, and adapt more readily to new environments and situations than older, wild, colony, or parent-raised birds as these may prove more challenging to tame. Hand-raised babies often make better pets, since they have been completely socialized with humans. New birds should be given early exposure to different events (young and old people, males and females, other pets, car trips, visits to the veterinarian, etc.) to help promote a calm, well-adjusted pet. All new birds should be examined by a veterinarian familiar with birds.
"Hand-raised babies often make better pets, since they have been completely socialized with humans."
African greys require regular, preventative veterinary health check-ups. Your veterinarian should perform a physical examination, grooming (nail or feather trimming, as necessary), and laboratory tests, as needed. During these semi-annual check-ups, health, nutrition, and behavior issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary check-ups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.
Appearance, Size, Lifespan, Diet, Reproduction, and Cage Requirements
In the more common African grey parrot, body feathers are light grey, wing feathers dark grey, and tail feathers are red.
The iris (eye) is pale yellow.
Legs are grey, feet are featherless, and both are covered with slightly bumpy skin.
The tail feathers are dark red towards tips.
The iris is grey.
The legs are dark grey, feet are featherless, and both are covered with smooth skin.
Generally, there are no reliable external sex differences. Experienced breeders may recognize subtle size and color variations between the sexes of their own breeding birds, but this is very subjective and not a reliable way to determine gender. Sex can be definitively determined with a genetic test on a drop of blood.
Weight: Average 12 - 19 ounces (350 - 550 grams).
Size: Average 13.5 inches (33 cm) in length.
Life span: 20 - 35 years, on average (generally not greater than 65 years in captivity).
Diet: Consult your veterinarian, or see handout: African grey parrot - Feeding
Breeding: Sexual maturity at –three to six years. Prolific breeders require lots of space, and males and females housed together should be monitored carefully, as some males can become quite aggressive during breeding season.
Brood Size: Two to four eggs hatch in 17 - 31 days. Young leave the nest in nine to ten weeks. Females housed alone can lay infertile eggs throughout their lives after sexual maturity.
Cage: Minimum 2 ft x 3 ft x 4 ft long (60 cm x 90 cm x 120 cm). Bar spacing should be narrow enough so that head and feet do not become caught between bars. The larger the cage space, the better for the bird.