There are two official subspecies of African Grey parrots. The first Congo African Grey “Psittacus erithacus erithacus” is the larger of the two species, growing to 12-13 inches bill to tail. They have light grey feathers, a dark red tail, a black beak and their irises change from grey to light yellow by the time they are a year old. The Timneh African Grey “Psittacus erithacus timneh” is the smaller of the two subspecies and their feathers and tail are darker than the Congo also their upper mandible is a cream color.
The natural habitat of the grey is the primary and secondary lowland rainforest of western and central Africa from Guinea-Bissau in the west to Cameroon in the east. One of the factors of wild flocks being reduced is due to the cutting down of the rainforest. The preferred tree of the Grey is also the preferred tree to cut down for lumber reducing the Greys habitat.
African Grey parrots have been kept as pets for over 4000 years starting with the Egyptians and many wealthy Greeks and Romans had Greys as pets because of their talking ability. During the age of exploration from the 15th -17th century Portuguese sailors kept Greys as companions on they long voyages into the unknown, even King Henry VIII had a pet Grey. Today, African Grey parrots are the most widely sought after parrots. While their numbers are dwindling in the wild and many restrictions are put on their exportation, breeders in the U.S. keep up with demand for the Grey and the black market is minimal here but it is booming in other parts of the world.
African Grey parrots make excellent pets because of their intelligence and sociability. Greys are considered excellent talkers and can mimic many different sounds from telephone ringing to other pet noises. However, individual birds ability to talk varies greatly and can not be counted on when choosing a Grey. Their cognitive ability ranks up among those of the dolphin and chimpanzee and because of this requires a strong commitment by the Grey owner to interact with and stimulate their bird. Greys should get a minimum of 3 hours outside their cage per day and at least an hour of human interaction and playtime.
A physically and mentally healthy Grey will be a source of great enjoyment and companionship. They usually bond to one person, unless constantly socialized with other people. The Grey thrives on a regimented schedule with specific feeding, playing and bedtimes they rarely like to deviate from their structured routine. Greys will live and average of 50 years in captivity, so be sure you are willing to make that type of commitment when choosing this pet. Because of their intelligence Greys require a lot of stimulating toys that can be rotated as the bird becomes bored with them. It is important for the bird’s mental health to create a diverse and stimulating environment. If a Grey becomes bored or neglected it can lead to bad habits and health issues like feather picking. One way to help alleviate the chance of boredom is to locate the Grey’s cage in the central part of the home where most activity occurs, such as the living room.
The African Grey is an ideal pet for a true bird lover, with their intelligence and social skills they entertain and provide companionship to their owner for many years. Many owners say it is like having a small child around all of the time, but they wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Remember Grey’s need a medium to large cage with several toys so they have room to move around and interact. Also a play stand gives them an extension of their home and a more diverse environment. Greys need a certain amount of Calcium and Vitamin A rich foods like leafy green spinach and mustard greens.