Grey parrots are the biggest parrots in Africa. Not only are they famous for their beauty, but they are also known for their intelligence and ability to reproduce sounds, words and human voices.
Subspecies and distribution
African Grey Parrots belong to the Psittacidae family and the Psittacus Erithacus species. There are also two subspecies:
Congo African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus): they are endemic to Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mali, Togo, Uganda, and Kenya.
Timneh African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus timneh): they are endemic to Western Africa, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
Congo African Grey Parrots are one of the largest parrots in Africa. They are 35 cm long (13.7 inches), they look strong and have robust bodies. They have red spatula-like tails, their beaks and nails are black and their legs are dark-grey. The base color of their body feathers is grey, darker on the upper part and lighter in their chest and belly.
Timneh African Grey parrots
They are a bit smaller in size, and quieter in character. Their plumage is dark grey. They have brown tails and pinkish beaks. Both subspecies have a white-colored area around their eyes.
They live in mangrove swamps, rain forests and wet savannahs near rivers or wetlands. They are tree-dwelling birds and they prefer dense forest sand tall trees to nest, out of the reach of predators, such as hawks and vultures.
They are gregarious animals and live in hierarchically-organized flocks. They are monogamous, i.e. they create stable bonds with one partner.
They feed on fruits, legumes, tubers, walnuts, berries, seeds, flowers and nuts, especially palm oil.
Threats to their survival
The major threats to these parrots are deforestation, raptors, monkeys, snakes and illegal trading. Magical and medicinal powers are attributed to these birds and, as a result, there is an alarming and growing demand of their heads and tails in Africa. In the United States and the European Community, trading this species once captured from their natural habitat is not allowed. The African grey parrot is a protected species under the import and export legal control (C.I.T.E.S agreement, Appendix II, Annex B).
Grey parrot as a pet
They have grown into popular company birds, due to their friendliness, extraordinary intelligence and ability to reproduce human voices, words and phrases. They are very sociable and do not like to be alone. They can develop harmful habits for themselves such as moodiness, self-mutilation, hyperactivity, and the feather picking syndrome (removing their own feathers) when they feel bored, or abandoned.
Grey parrot with feather picking syndrome
An easy way to keep them happy is to fetch them a couple, give them affection and spend many hours a day with them giving them full attention. If you do not have much time to give, it is best to look for other kind of birds.
The cage should be located somewhere near natural light, away from the kitchen and loud noises, and it should be wide enough so that they can fly a little. The basic and essential dimensions of the cage should be 2m wide x 1m deep x 2m high, though it is best to take them out of the cage two hours per day so that they don´t feel oppressed (make sure to release them in a safe place, as they like to chew everything they come across). On the other hand, the cage, food and water trough, and toys should be cleaned daily to remove odors and bacteria left by feces and urine.
Cage with big dimensions
They have a strong need of vitamin A and calcium. Calcium levels should be examined by a veterinarian once a year, as they are prone to have calcium deficiencies. Spinach and kale are good sources for this nutrient, but you must rinse them well. In addition, carrots are good sources of vitamin A. Their diet should be similar to the one they would have in the wild, supplemented with a special feed for parrots.
In their natural environment, they avoid human contact. However, if they were born in captivity, they are more sociable, as they got used to interacting with people. They are good observers and they have the greatest capacity to reproduce human speech of all animals. The best way for them to learn it is by repeating the speech daily and positively reinforce them with compliments and affection every time they do it well. Due to their high level of intelligence, they need to stay active and it is required to stimulate their intelligence with special toys for parrots because, otherwise, they will get bored and start to develop self-destructive behaviors.
The best option is the one that is attached to the cage to prevent feces from poisoning food. They must have access to clear water 24 hours a day.
When purchasing them, it is advisable to take them to the vet to make sure they are healthy. An annual check including the following is recommended: a physical examination, internal and external parasite prevention,weight control, vaccines, blood test, stool studies for the detection of larvae, protozoa, helminth eggs and discard diseases such as circovirus or Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), polyomavirus and Pacheco´s disease.
If you are thinking of having one of these parrots as a pet, you should know that they can live up to 60 years. Are you willing to undertake this responsibility all your life?
Do not promote the illegal trading of this species by buying them in stores that do not guarantee their legal origin. It is best to acquire specimens that were born in captivity.