African Grey Parrot: Sensitive Bird With a Lot of Brains

Compared to its colorful cousin from South America, the extravagant macaw, the African gray parrot is downright modest. Somewhat smaller, short-tailed, and almost plain-colored, the curved beak looks less attractive – but behind this simple facade hides one of the most intelligent animals on the planet. If you buy African grays, you have not acquired pets, but rather smart and self-confident addition to the family.

At Home in the Treetops – African Grey Parrots and Their Environment

In their African homeland, the African gray parrots live as typical tree-top dwellers in rainforests, mangroves, and wet savannas. They are very careful, and although they occasionally visit cultivated areas while looking for food, they avoid being near people. African gray parrots enter into solid monogamous relationships, are out in pairs or in small groups during the day. When dusk falls, the animals become sociable and form large swarms in sleeping trees.

There is a natural threat from nest predators and large birds of prey – human encroachment on the habitat is much more serious. African gray parrots were introduced as pets in Europe by seafarers, presumably around the turn of the 16th century. From the 19th century onwards there were successful offspring in Europe.

Chic in Elegant Gray – Color Variants for the African Grey Parrot

African gray parrots come in two subspecies: the Congo and Timneh gray parrot. Both species are gray, only feathers are missing around the eyes. The plumage on the head is slightly lighter, the wax skin over the beak is white. The short, red tail plumage stands out as a bright color accent. The Timneh gray parrot is slightly darker in color, with a rather wine-red tail and a brownish upper bill – the Congo parrot is black. Among parrot friends, there is occasional talk of the king gray parrot with reddish feathers on the body. These animals are neither a subspecies nor a color mutation, but a deficiency symptom that manifests itself in plumage discoloration.

The Species-appropriate African Grey Parrot Husbandry

In order to keep a gray parrot in a species-appropriate manner, you need at least a second animal – keeping it individually is not appropriate to animal welfare – and a lot of space. The absolute minimum size of an aviary for a bird is 2 × 1 × 1 meters (width x depth x height), for each additional animal half, the volume is added. Such accommodation is suitable as a sleeping and feeding place and for temporary security. In addition, the birds need a lot of free flight. Please take into account that it is in the nature of all parrots to gnaw wood, paper, and wickerwork and arrange the rooms accordingly.

African gray parrots are very loud: shrill screeches and whistles are part of their normal repertoire. Tenants should find out about their noise tolerance from the neighbors before buying. Also, remember that animals live longer. With good care, the average African gray age is 60 years; older birds are documented. African gray parrots are not beginner animals and are only suitable for people with previous knowledge of parrot keeping. The sensitive birds react quickly to a lack of attention and incorrect posture with behavioral problems such as aggression or feather plucking.

Nutrition: It Belongs in the Parrot Bowl

The natural diet of the African gray parrot consists mainly of fruits and parts of plants such as buds and flowers. In addition, there are nuts and seeds – the bird ingests everything that is available and quickly adapts to a changed food supply. The African gray parrot diet should contain plenty of green fodder: vegetables, fruits, corn, chickweed … You will quickly find out what your animals like.

In addition, you serve a good mixture of seeds for parrots and, in moderation, nuts; but these must be peeled to prevent the transfer of the tiniest mold spores into the respiratory organs. African gray parrots also need a little protein every week in the form of quark or boiled egg. For a sufficient supply of calcium, you can use sepia and limestone. Attention: African gray parrots do not tolerate avocados, please do not give them.

Do African Greys Become Tame?

Once an African grey parrot has gained confidence in its people, in most cases it will quickly become tame. Like many parrots, the animals show a certain desire to be admired and praised; their curiosity also drives them to be part of everything that happens in the “swarm” and thus participate in people’s lives. They need attention and address – if you do not do enough with the animals, they take it seriously. With enough intellectual stimulation and care, African gray parrots become very affectionate. Even more: They tend to be jealous and can react unwillingly and offended if they suspect competition.

The birds have a great talent for speech and often spontaneously imitate voices and noises from their surroundings; in addition, they can obviously link an object or a situation with frequently heard words and apply them themselves. African gray parrots are also considered to be extremely empathetic and have a very fine instinct. They recognize the moods of their people and react to them. But they also need a certain amount of upbringing: if an African gray parrot sees the opportunity, it will try to conquer the “chief position” in the family swarm. As with dog training, it is important that you assert yourself as an “alpha animal”.

African Grey Parrots and Their Intelligence

The wisdom of African gray parrots is legendary and has long amazed parrot keepers and scientists. African gray parrots use tools in captivity, for example scooping water with hollow objects and using sticks as “back scrapers”. It cannot be ruled out that wild birds do similar things. The cognitive abilities that the African gray parrot Alex demonstrated to the linguist Irene Pepperberg are absolutely fascinating. Extremely linguistically gifted, Alex had an active vocabulary of 200 human words and understood 500 more. He could name things exactly and even use words spontaneously in the correct context. He also mastered numbers up to seven.

The most amazing thing: the bird seems to have a real ego-consciousness, could express wishes (e.g. ask for a banana), and show itself annoyed when it received another fruit instead. Experts compare the intelligence of African gray parrots with that of a kindergarten child. If you respect the clever bird and its individual temperament, then it turns out to be a lovable family member, with whom you will never get bored!

African Grey Parrot

Central and West Africa;

28 – 40 centimeters (females smaller than males);

490 grams;

The unfeathered eye area, white wax skin, strong upper beak: depending on the species, brownish or black, gray legs;

Gray, red tail feathers;

Life expectancy
60 years, older animals documented;

Intelligent, sensitive, empathic, jealous.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *