The African Grey Parrot is regarded by experts as one of the most intelligent birds. In the parrot world, they are known to be the best talkers and are said to be capable of developing the intellectual and emotional intelligence equal to that of a five-year-old child. Unlike other parrot species, such as the Cockatoo or Macaw, the Grey is not typically known for being loud. Their gentle nature and their impressive ability to mimic speech have made them popular pets.
African Greys are native to the primary and secondary rain forests of West and Central Africa. They primarily feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, and leafy matter. Some people have even observed Greys eating snails. Two subspecies are universally accepted: the Congo African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus, and the Timneh African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus timneh).
Congo African Greys are considered to be a medium-sized parrot and can vary between 12-14 inches from their black beak to their tail. Congos usually weigh anywhere between 400 to 650 grams when fully grown. This is the dominant subspecies, larger than the Timneh, with light grey feathers, cherry red tails and an all-black beak.
Timneh African Grey parrots are smaller in size, have a darker charcoal grey coloring, a darker maroon tail, and a light, horn-colored area to part of the upper mandible.
Both subspecies seem to have the same ability and tendency to produce human speech. Timneh African Greys usually begin talking at six months of age although some can take up to two years before they start. Just like the Congo African Grey, they do have the capacity to have a vocabulary of over 2,000 words. Timnehs are generally not as good talkers as their Congo counterparts. Congo African Grey parrots are the best known talkers and most talented of the pet parrots.
African greys are very intelligent, gregarious in nature, and highly sensitive to the people around them and their surroundings. They are very playful and enjoy climbing and chewing. It is important to keep these smart birds busy as boredom can lead to emotional problems such as feather picking. Greys are very strong and they can bite with their strong pointed beak and scratch with their claws. Foraging and instructional play and toys are a must for Greys so they can remain happy and healthy.
Taking care of African Grey parrots, like any other pet parrot, requires a huge commitment on the part of the owner as these birds require a lot of attention. Most owners agree that three hours out of their cage daily coupled with about an hour of physical interaction is the minimum attention required to preserve their mental health. African Greys also have the tendency to bond only to one person if they do not interact with different people regularly.
African Greys are often inflicted with calcium deficiencies and should be fed with foods rich in calcium and Vitamin A such as green leafy vegetables, almonds or a small amount of cheese. Calcium and vitamin supplements may also be used in conjunction with their normal diet.
Greys are beautiful and talented birds. They are wonderful companion parrots and make for very interesting companions. Whether you choose a Congo or a Timneh, you can be sure that you will be rewarded with a strong emotional bond and many years of fun and entertainment.