African Grey parrots originate in Africa, as the name might clue you! Two sub species exist, the Congo and Timneh. The Congo African grey is a larger of the two growing 12-14 inches in length and weighing approximately one pound. The Congo has grey scalloped appearing feathers edged in white on its neck and body with a black beak and bright red short rounded tail. The area around the eye is bare and will flush when the bird is excited. The Timneh is a smaller bird with darker feathers. Both birds talk well and make good pets.
African Greys are considered one of the very best talkers in the parrot world. Sound is made as the bird forces air out of its trachea and it is really quite amazing that any bird can mimic speech so well when their anatomy does not include lips! My grey Gracie began mimicking sounds almost immediately and although only a year old already has quite a vocabulary.
Some people consider Greys clumsy due to their weight and stocky bodies. Gracie did fall more at first but after I allowed her to become lighted I would not call her clumsy at all. She hangs upside down, moves around her stand and flies into the kitchen to check things out. Of course, I never leave her out unattended. Weather to allow birds to become flighted is an individual choice and often depends on the nature of the bird. I keep my Sun Conure clipped, although it doesn’t slow him down all that much, because he is a calmer less nippy bird clipped.
Greys are also thought by some to be more fearful than other birds and more prone to feather picking. As we are not a place for everything and everything in its place type of household, Gracie has had to get use to changes in environment early. She seems to adjust to change well and take no more time to adjust to say a new toy than my Sun Conure. As for feather picking, we feed Gracie a varied diet with a high quality base diet of pellets, dried fruits, and nuts. Feather picking is felt to be both dietary and emotional in nature. Greys aren’t necessarily the huggy feely birds in the parrot family, although Gracie loves a good head scratch!! They do however; need lots of side by side attention and time out of the cage to be happy.
All parrots are intelligent but while my Sun Conure is smart and knows several tricks, Gracie my Grey is over the bell curve smart! Beyond the obvious talking ability, Gracie picks up on toys with leavers and knobs quite quickly and responds on que to several commands with more reliability. Parrots in general are believed to operate on the level of a toddler in intelligence and African Greys are believed to be one of the most intelligent parrots. For this reason, it is important to carefully consider if you have the right lifestyle for these wonderful but high demand pets.
Brenda Smithy writes articles on pet care topics. Check out her site to find for tips on parrot care