Congo African Grey Parrots
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Psittacus erithacus
SIZE: 12.9" | WEIGHT: 2.5 lbs | LIFESPAN: 40-60 years
LOUDNESS: ★★★★☆ | BITE: ★★★★☆
DIFFICULTY: ☐Easy ☐Normal ☑Hard ☐Nightmare
NATIVE HABITAT: Africa; South Eastern Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Tanzania.
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered, Population Decreasing
African Greys are granivores and frugivores. In the wild, they're diet consists of
mostly of palm nuts, seeds, fruits, and leafy matter. In captivity, they are fussy eaters. All seed diet will cause vitamin deficiency, so bird pellets are a main staple of their diet, as well as a variety of fruits such as pear, orange, pomegranate, apple, and banana, and vegetables such as carrot, cooked sweet potato, celery, fresh kale, peas, and green beans.
It’s not uncommon for them to pick one person in the family and that’s THEIR person. Everyone else is considered competition who needs to put in their place through biting.
They may also prefer one gender over another. How can they tell? I’m actually not sure.
Some people assume, “They must have been abused by a male or female in their past, so they don't like that gender.” It could be possible in some cases, but it could also be just a personal preference.
They can be trolls. I recall the story of a Grey making the sound of the doorbell to tease the family dogs. They’d hear the sound and bolt to the door. The bird seeming to be amused by their own antics.
HEALTH & BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS
Offer full-spectrum lighting if natural light is not available.
Calcium deficiency, vitamin-A and vitamin-D deficiency, respiratory infection, psittacosis and psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD).
They’re social, emotionally sensitive. Due to their high intelligence, they need mental stimulation through toys, foraging opportunities, and regular interaction.
Grey parrots produce a lot of powder down. Offer daily baths or showers. It is a good idea to make sure you're not allergic to their dander before bringing on into your home.
Household temperatures should range from 70-80°F (21-27°C).
Cage bar spacing should be 0.75-1.0 in (1.9-2.5cm) with a perch diameter of approximately 1 in (2.5 cm).
IN THE WILD
African Greys are social creatures and often congregate in flocks. They have been seen roosting with around 1,000 other grays. To avoid predators, they roost on coastal or river islands, or near clearings. Highly social, they communicate through a variety of raucous vocalizations that serve to coordinate flocking, warn of danger, and express anger toward rivals.
When foraging in trees, it prefers to use its beak and feet to climb between branches rather than flying.
Conservation-wise, they’re having a rough time in their native habitat due to poaching for their demand as pets and habitat lost.
660,000 African grays were sold on the international market between 1982 and 2001, 300,000 likely died during capture or transport.
Importation of wild-caught specimens to the United States was banned in 1992 under the Wild Bird Conservation Act. The European Union banned the importation of wild-caught birds in 2007. Nonetheless, significant markets existed for the trade of African grays in the Middle East, in East Asia, and within Africa itself.
They have the cognitive ability of a 3-5 year old. Their brains may be small, but they’re highly efficient and comparable to great-apes.
Not all Greys will talk, but they do all communicate through body language, and vocalizations (which include squawking, but cell phone rings, microwave beeps, door bells, etc). Having an interest or at least being mindful of animal behavior would help those who share their homes with them.
People are keen on African Greys because of their mimicking ability, and in some ways their verbal communication ability. As Dr. Pepperberg proves, they are conscious in a fair amount of what they’re saying.
I met Dr. Irene Pepperberg at a fundraising dinner and an educational event. She very much cared about Alex. Her studies are amazing, and are now continued with other African Greys. I highly recommend her book, "Alex and Me.” It's very good read for bird lovers and bird-curious alike.
Studies by other researchers have determined that African grays can use deductive reasoning
The birds’ vocal nature led to their characterization in Yoruba folklore as spies and sentinels.
African grays appear in paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (1629/30), Jan Davidsz de Heem (c. 1640–50), and Jan Steen (1663–65).
The first recorded observance of African grays by Westerners occurred in 1402.
African Greys are Hard Mode when it comes to birds. That’s not to say people won’t run into a chill, easy-to-care for Grey, but the ones I’ve come across have been pretty demanding.
They live for a very long time, up into their 60s - so a willing them over to a family member or a parrot-knowledgable friend is highly recommended. Pet trusts are something Bird families should probably look into for their long-lived, and needy companions.
I do not suggest African Greys as a family’s first pet. Due to they’re social nature, they’re not really they type to do well if the whole family is out 8 hours a day regularly.
Prior bird Experience is recommended before bringing one into your family.
RESOURCES & REFERENCES: