|Common Name:||Grey Parrot/African Grey Parrot|
|Scientific Name:||Psittacus Erithacus|
|Life Span:||40 to 60 years|
|Habitat:||Savannas, woodland, coastal mangroves|
|Nest Box Size:||4 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. (minimum)|
|Clutch Size:||2 to 4 eggs|
|Incubation Time:||About 30 day|
|Fledging Age:||12 weeks|
|Hatch Weight:||12 to 14 g|
|Peak Weight:||526 g|
|Weaning Weight:||372 to 526 g|
|Country of Origin:||Africa|
At one glance, the Grey Parrot is a medium-sized, gray, dusty-looking bird. They are also pigeon-like. Further observation would reveal the parrots bright red tail, stunning scalloped pattern and intelligent orange eyes.
These parrots usually grow up to 13 inches in length, which is considered as medium. As suggested by their name, their plumage can be of different hues of grey, typically darker on the back and wings, with quite a dramatic crimson tail. Just like other parrots, they Grey Parrots feature a hooked beak which is amazingly strong.
Here are some fun facts about the grey parrot:
- The have the capability to amass up to 1000 word vocabularies or more
- They learn to use the words they have learned to speak in context
- They usually live 40 to 60 years, and some have reached up to 80 years in captivity
- They need plenty of mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy
In the wild, the average lifespan of a Grey Parrot is between 40 and 50 years. In captivity, on the other hand, they can have an average lifespan of about 45 years, though they can still live up to 60 years.
Grey parrots usually live in savannas, woodland, coastal mangroves, and edges of the forest clearings. They originated from Central and West Africa range. Even though most of the Grey parrot subspecies are referred as the Congo African grey, these birds have a wider range in Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya and the Ivory Coast. Timney African Grey, on the other hand, is found in smaller areas along the western part of the Ivory Coast, continuing through Southern Guinea.
Conservation Status and Threats
Grey parrots are currently listed under Threatened because of the extent of the harvest for international trade every year. This is also along with the rate of ongoing habitat loss, which means that it has been going through rapid declines in populations over a period of 47 years.
Some breeders and owners of grey parrots say it is easy to discern the differences between genders, especially when they reach 18 months old, or after their very first molt. Usually, the tail of a male grey parrot will stay solid red, while the red tail feathers of a female become tipped with silver.
Also, the undersides of the wings of a male parrot will become dark, while the undersides of a female parrot will stay light. Other differences include females having a narrower head and a more slender neck, along with a rounded eye patch. On the other hand, the male eye patch becomes pointed right behind the eye.
Perception and Communication
One reason why a lot of bird lovers would want to have a grey parrot as their pet is because of their intelligence. Aside from the fact that they have the capacity to learn a huge vocabulary, they also show a capability of recognizing the meaning of both words and phrases.
Wild grey parrots are naturally very shy. They also rarely allow humans to come near them. They are highly social among birds, usually nesting in big groups, even though family groups typically occupy their own tree for nesting. Younger grey parrots are educated by the older ones until they learn to become independent.
In captivity, they are more sociable, but need some level of bird care experience on the part of the owners. Grey parrots are complex pets. They are a bit demanding, and highly sensitive. They are brilliant and charming at the same time, though this match of brains and sensitivity may often lead to some behavioral issues.
Grey parrots are natural creatures of habit, which means that a slight change in routine can already make them unhappy. They have the tendency to chew and pluck their feathers, with some other bad habits. As they are social parrots, they require a lot of hands-on time.
Still, they do not love cuddles. While they can tolerate a bit of head scratching and some petting, they do not really love intense contact physically. Note that every bird has their own preferences and taste. A parrot grey may also be a “one person bird”, which means attachment to a specific person, even when all members of the household tries to socialize with them.
Biting, screaming and feather plucking are considered as common behavior issues. One of the best ways to handle these behaviors is to make sure that your grey parrot is given a lot of space, attention and toys. After all, they may have been lonely, bored and frustrated.
Grey Parrots may become jealous of other pets and family members. They usually develop a bond with a human, showing no interest in interacting with other family members. In fact, they may even reach the point of attacking them. To avoid certain aggression problems, it is highly recommended to socialize the parrots properly while they are still young.
By socializing with these pet birds from a young age, while allowing other people to interact and handle it, single-person bonding can be avoided, thus making it a good pet for the entire family.
Food and Diet
Grey Parrots in the wild usually feed on a wide variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables. For those that become pets in homes, seed-based meals and diets are not recommended as they allow the birds to be exposed to an imbalanced diet.
As an alternative option, there are certain formulated diets, in the form of crumbles and pellets, which offer a more balanced and complete nutrition. They are usually formulated in a way that do not allow for selective feeding, and comprises around 75% of the diet. Vegetables, dark leafy greens and fruits should also make up to 20 to 25% of their diet. Extra treats need to be limited only to 5% of the parrots’ diet. Fresh and clean water should also be provided every day.
If it is your first time to take care of a grey parrot, then you may want to begin with a quality dry food mix. There are local quality bird stores that offer quality and natural mixes with a wide range of grains, seeds, dried fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables.
It is also important to note that some grey parrots are prone to low blood calcium, which is why it is often best to incorporate a lot of calcium-rich foods.
Environment and Housing
It is important to prepare an enclosure which is right for your pets. These enclosures need to be as big as possible, allowing for the bird to completely extend its wings, allowing them to flap without worrying that they touch the cage walls.
The cage should always be kept clean, safe, secure and constructed out of durable and non-toxic materials. The perches, on the other hand, should also be made of variable heights, widths and textures. Make sure to provide concrete perch as it helps in maintaining the toenails of your pets.
It is recommended to avoid directly placing the perches over food or water in order to avoid contamination. It is often preferred to have access to natural light, and the use of supplemental UV light may also be recommended in order to treat or avoid picking feather or hypocalcemia.
Your parrots need to stay inside their cage or a room that is bird-safe, especially when they are not being supervised, or no one is there to take care of them. Birds that are allowed to have access anywhere in the house may be at risk for accidents, including electrocution, toxin ingestion, pet attacks, and even drowning.
Health and Common Issues
Grey Parrots are particularly prone to calcium deficiency, feather picking, respiratory infection, Vitamin A and Vitamin D deficiency, psittacosis and Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). Among other common medical disorders include behavioral problems, hypocalcemia diseases, nasal blockages, as well as proventricular dilatation disease (PDD).
Calls / Vocalizations
These parrots usually follow an everyday pattern of vocalizations. In the wild, the flock is usually quiet from the sunset down to the next dawn. However, at day break, they start vocalizing before foraging at various locations during the day. At dusk, they go back to their roosting site, and begins another period of vocalization.
Some African grey parrot owners report that their pets talk in context, and also seem attune to their owners’ emotions. They are not just talkers, but they are also highly intelligent, giving them the nickname “The Einsteins in the Bird World”.
Just because these parrots are smart and may want to talk instead of scream, it should be noted that it is often a mistake to believe that they are silent birds. While they may not be as persistent or loud as some other parrot species, they will learn sounds used in the household, and use them tirelessly to the annoyance of owners. You can imagine sounds as incessant microwave beeping, or a madly ringing cellphone with no options for turning off.
These grey parrots need to go through physical examinations once every 6 to 12 months. You may want to consult an avian veterinarian who is experienced in bird medicine if you have concerns or issues about the health of your bird.
It is also recommended for your pets to go through annual fecal examination for possible yeast, parasites and bacteria infestation. Your veterinarian may also recommend vaccination for polyomavirus, routine blood testing. They also need to have some nail and wing trimming as needed.
According to breeders, an L-shaped nesting box which is prepared in a quiet part of the breeding cage provides the best place for breeding. It is recommended to have visual barriers between the cages, as any close space without these barriers may result to territorial competition and a sparring between the males.
Install at least one perch (cement-type) to ensure that their nails are trimmed. This perch can be placed in an area where they can spend time. Grey parrots typically mate several times a day for a period of several weeks before the very first egg is laid.
A clutch may include 2 to 5 eggs. During this period, it is recommended not to bother the parent parrots too much, but check the nesting box at least once a day, especially when the parents are eating. The chicks will hatch about 28 to 30 days later. Right before hatching, it has been observed that food consumption of the parent parrots increase drastically as they prepare themselves physically for the strenuous task of raising their chicks.
When the checks are about 15 to 21 days old, you may now want to pull them out together for hand feeding. Since they are very protective for their chicks, it is important to take precaution when removing the chicks since the parents may become aggressive. Use a bird net in scooping up the babies.
Availability – Where to Get One?
African grey parrots are usually available for sale from a bird breeder, or an avian-specialty store. They are also available at times for adoption from some bird adoption or rescue organizations.
There are two specific subspecies of the African Grey Parrot. The Timneh African Grey Parrot (Psittacus Erithacus Timneh), and the Congo African Grey Parrot (Psittacus Erithacus Erithacus). These parrots come in a wide range of colors and sizes.
You may find grey parrots priced at a range of $1500 to $3500. The price may vary depending on the subspecies that you intend to purchase, whether you are getting a Timneh African Grey or a Congo African Grey. The latter is the most common option.
The quality of the genetics may also affect their price. The price also tends to increase after the parrot has been weaned, and can now eat adult food. After a specific age, the older a parrot becomes, the cheaper it will be in terms of price.
Aside from the actual cost of the bird, you also need to consider the supplies and care needed which may also involve other expenses. Each parrot needs a bird cage which typically cost between $300 and $500, even though the price can change also as the size of the cage increases.
The addition of perches, objects and several toys that will keep your parrot entertained could also cost you an extra $50 to $100. If you love traveling, or if you need a traveling cage for transporting your parrot to the vet, you may need an extra cage that usually cost about $200. The bills for avian vet is another cost that you need to consider, along with an annual checkup that is also highly recommended. You may want to get a bird insurance to cover some of the costs.
How to Care for a Grey Parrot?
One thing to remember is that grey parrots are not mammals or chickens, which means that they have a distinct physiology with some unique requirements. Aside from the medical attention that they need, it is also important to be ready and willing to commit to at least four hours every day for contact and interaction. This requirement for care is not an exaggeration but a necessity. This will help in maintaining their good mental and physical condition.
Giving your pet an appropriately sized cage that is comfortable and safe is a recommended step. The cage should be big enough to allow your bird to spread his or her wings without contacting anything. It should also come with natural branch perches and some shredable toys, paper-stuffed toys woven mat toys, and similar stuff.
What can I feed my grey parrot?
Grey parrots eat a wide variety of nuts, seeds, berries, fruits and vegetations in their natural environment in the wild. They climb from branch to branch while eating rather than flying. They especially love the fruits of African oil palm, which is a tree that is native to their natural environment.
What food should I not give my pet grey parrot?
There are some food that act as poison to the digestive system of birds. One example is the avocado persin. While some parrots may eat guacamole and avocado without any problem, it is advised by veterinarians to include these food in the diet of your pet since it can be deadly for most pets. Another fruit that should not be eaten by parrots is Rhubarb.
How intelligent are grey parrots?
Grey parrots are among the most intelligent in the bird world. It has even been said that they have the emotional and mental capabilities similar to that of a 5 year old child. They are also known because of their better understanding and even imitation of human speech.
When will my pet start talking?
African grey parrots usually start talking when they reach one or two years of age. There are some exceptions, however, with some parrots starting to talk as young as 4 to 6 months old. To encourage talking, it is recommended to talk with your pet. They usually start out in vocalizations, and eventually start chattering. Speak to your pet using consistent terms and with enthusiasm.
How much sleep does a grey parrot need?
Parrots, in general, need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep every day. When sleep time is compromised, these birds can be grumpy.
Is there a need to childproof my house before the arrival of my grey parrot?
It is important to prepare your cage and set up for the pet before arriving home. It is essential that a bird has its own cage. This will help in preventing those innocent walks all throughout your home. Yes, it is pretty much the same as childproofing your home, as birds can also be curious of some things, such as electrical cords, potentially toxic plants, and other dangerous things that we usually take for granted.
How often should I clean the cage of my bird?
Cages and perches need to be wiped, cleaned and disinfected every day in order to remove debris. All food and water dishes also need to be changed and cleaned at least three times a day. They usually like making soup with their meal in the water dishes. Soup usually serves as host for bacteria. Using a bird-safe product is also recommended for washing.
How do grey parrots usually react to change?
Grey parrots, in particular, need to be exposed to new things as much as possible. Car trips, safe outings, exposure to new objects, rooms in your home, etc. Once your young parrot is already patterned to embrace change, then things will be better in the days to follow. This also applies even to older parrots.
Is it safe to bathe my grey parrot?
Yes, it is! It is a natural thing for parrots to bathe. Some are easier to bathe than others, just like other animals, and even humans. Some birds love bathing in a low bowl of lukewarm water. You may even want to add natural aloe juice to the water, as it has healing properties which help in moisturizing their skin and feathers.
Can I give my bird toys?
Yes it is possible. However, there are specific toys that are recommended, as not all toys are designed for birds. Soft pine wood toys, or some acrylic toys is recommended. They are easy to chew. They also love it when the size of the toys are not so large.