African grey parrot

African Grey Parrots As Pets

The African grey parrot (Psittacus Erithacus), is the native of the lavish green African woodlands. This medium-sized parrot makes a wonderful bird companion. They are not only great talkers but are very intelligent, affectionate, and highly attuned to human emotions. 

There are two subspecies of the African grey parrot: the Timneh African Grey (Psittacus erithacus timneh), aka TAG, and the Congo African Grey (Psittacus erithacus erithacus), aka CAG. Because their natural habitat is so large, they come in many sizes and shades of gray. 

Of the two, the Congo African Grey is more popular. It has a scarlet tail, black beak, and is larger than the TAG. The Timneh African Grey has a much darker shade of grey, almost black, and has a horn-colored beak. TAG’s tail color ranges from dark-grey to maroon.

Their wingspans range from 46- 52 cm. They have white markings on their wings and feathers all over the body. These parrots have a medium body size ranging from 10 to 14 inches in length. They can mimic human speech, understand it and react; hence,  they are very popular among bird enthusiasts. These features greatly influence their market price.

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 History And Origin

African Grey parrots are native to most equatorial African regions. These birds are more common in Kenya, Congo, Cameroon, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Uganda. They are particularly found in dense and thick forests. However, you will also find some birds close to human habitats. And for decades, these birds have been pets for humans.

These birds have been known to live 40 to 60 years in captivity.

Temperament

African Grey parrots are the most intelligent in the species of parrot. Many grow to be extremely affectionate and sweet towards their guardians, and the species is recognized for being quite friendly. 

However, a neglected or bored is not happy, and it shows its discontent. Hence, you need to stimulate the bird mentally. They have a high intelligence level, are curious, and love to explore their surroundings, which means they are complex birds. 

African grey parrots have been known to bond with one family member, rejecting others even when the owner tries to connect them with other family members. The birds will also tend to be intolerant to strangers and not show any sign of cowardice.

In captivity, this parrot will readily adapt to new environments, activities, and routines. They will need foraging exercises, enriching surroundings, and interesting toys to reduce the chance of behavioral problems. 

Caring For an African Grey Parrot

The African Grey Parrot needs adequate living space. Its cage should be at least 2- foot by 2- foot footprint and 3 feet in height. Limited training and interaction may make the bird exhibit self-mutilation behaviors such as feather-plucking and become depressed.

These birds do well when they have lots of opportunities to interact with their overseers, play with toys, and learn tricks and words. African Grey Parrot owners have reported many cases that these birds enjoy having radio or television on when they are alone. The birds are greatly affected by commotions and stress, and they generally require a quiet environment when they are in the cage.

Diet

African Grey parrots feed on a variety of wild fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A diet that comprises mainly of seeds is not recommended because the birds are very picky eaters. They’ll pick only what they like resulting in an imbalanced diet. 

Formulated diets; crumbles or pellets provide a completely balanced diet, do not allow selective feeding, and should comprise 75% of their diet. Vegetables such as arugula, kale, watercress, sprouts, and fruits can take up the rest of the diet. Fresh, clean water should be freely provided for the bird as needed.

Exercise

Adequate amounts of activity are vital to maintaining the health of an African Grey parrot. African Grey parrots should be let out of their cage for at least two hours a day for exercise. They also need lots of toys that exercise their intelligence.

Common Health Problems

African Grey Parrots are susceptible to health issues such as vitamin A and D deficiency, psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), feather picking, respiratory infection, feather disease, and calcium deficiency.

Vitamin deficiencies can be prevented by feeding your birds a wide selection of fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, like fresh kale and cooked sweet potato. Feather-picking indicates a bored bird not receiving enough mental stimulation, exercise or attention.

Speech And Vocalization

African Grey Parrots pick up sounds and words very fast. They can easily make great whistleblowers. Once, an African Grey parrot blew the whistle on a woman’s love affair by repeatedly calling out the other man’s name using the cheating wife’s voice in front of her husband. Like children, African Grey Parrots have a reputation for mimicking everything they hear. So, it’s wise to mind what you say around these birds. Most importantly, African Grey Parrots are not loud screamers. They are suitable for owners living in condos or apartments, although neglected birds may scream for being ignored.

Differentiate Males from Females

You can differentiate males from females even though the differences are minimal. Male parrots are usually larger than females. Female parrots tend to have a small-sized head and a narrow neck.

When the birds reach adolescence, you will get substantial differences at least 18 months of age. The male African grey’s tail will remain red, while a female’s red tail becomes tipped with silver. The undersides of a male’s wings become dark, while a female remains light. Additionally, males become more slender, narrower heads, while females tend longer necks with rounded heads.

Behavior

African Grey Parrots are highly sensitive and intelligent birds. That’s why most bird keepers believe that only the most experienced bird enthusiasts should keep them. Greys are creatures of habit and even the slightest changes in routine can make them very unhappy. They will show this by feather plucking and chewing amongst other vices. 

Being charming, social birds, they need lots of hands-on time. They are, however, not cuddle bugs. They appreciate the occasional pet and head scratch but don’t enjoy lots of physical contact.

Where to Get an African Grey Parrot

Looking to adopt an African grey? You’re likely to get one from a reputable breeder near you or from an avian-specialty store. Bird rescue/ adoption organizations are also a great option. 

If you are interested in content about dogs, you can begin here: What to do if a Dog Bites You

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