There are two types of African grey parrots: the larger Congo African grey (Psittacus erithacus) is originally from Central Africa and is all grey with a bright red tail and an all-black beak; the smaller, darker grey-colored Timneh African grey (Psittacus timneh) is from West Africa and is also all grey but has a dark maroon-colored tail and lighter grey on the sides of the upper beak. At one time, the Timneh grey was thought to be a sub-species of the Congo grey, but it is now believed to be a totally separate species.
Behavior and Personality
African grey parrots are highly intelligent birds and are now commonly bred in captivity as pets. 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 (e.g., ringing telephone). Some individuals, especially if they are older, wild-caught birds or were improperly socialized, may have undesirable, often loud vocalizations. The sound that a frightened, defensive, or timid African grey makes is a characteristic loud growl.
Both types of African grey parrots bond readily, often with one member of the family or specifically with males or females. This one-on-one bond can occasionally lead to aggression towards others. These handsome, good-natured, social birds make excellent companions and family pets for people who have the time to spend with them. If 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."
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 that are 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.
Purchasing an African Grey Parrot
African greys may be purchased from pet stores and reputable breeders or adopted from rescue facilities. Young birds may be easier to tame and train and will adapt more readily to new environments and situations compared to the older wild, colony, or parent-raised birds. Hand-raised babies often make better pets because 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 because they have been completely socialized with humans."
African greys require regular, preventative veterinary health checkups. Your veterinarian should perform a physical examination, grooming (nail and/or feather trimming as necessary), and laboratory tests (as needed). During these semi-annual checkups, health, nutrition, and behavior issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary checkups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long-lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.