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African Grey Parrots

pic grey cropAfrican Grey Parrot PhotoAfrican Grey parrots are very popular as pets because they are extremely intelligent and can learn to talk and vocally interact with their human flocks. In fact, African Grey parrots are thought to be the best talkers of the parrot species as they often learn hundreds of words! African Greys also like to imitate sounds like microwaves, telephones, running water, and the beeps of trucks backing up.

African Greys are often described as shy birds that bond only to one person. However, if they are well socialized, African Greys will be accepting of more people. These birds require a lot of personal attention and social interaction outside of their cages every day. Due to their intelligence, they also require an environment with a lot of stimulating activities, like toys and foraging devices, to ward off behavioral problems.

There are two main subspecies of African Greys, the Congo Greys and Timneh Greys. Congo Greys are a lighter colored grey, have a bright red tail and black beak. Timnehs are smaller than Congo Greys and are a darker grey with maroon colored tail and a dark horn colored beak. Both subspecies have a featherless patches of white skin around their eyes.

Both subspecies of African Grey parrots are found in West and Central Africa, with Timnehs located in a smaller area, including Liberia and the Ivory Coast region.

The African Greys' habitat is found mainly in the swamps and mangroves of lowland forests in equatorial African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

In the wild, African Grey parrots live in large flocks of up to several hundred birds that are most often spotted when the flocks fly between foraging and roosting sites. They communicate with each other using high-pitched sounds and whistles.

The African Grey parrots' diet in the wild consists mainly of seeds, nuts, fruits (especially African Oil Palm), berries, and some green leafy matter. They are partial ground feeders and smaller groups of greys fly to the ground at a time while others stand watch in the trees for ground predators.

African Grey parrots mate for life and build their nests in tree holes high above the ground. They typically lay three to five eggs in a clutch, one at a time every two to four days. The female grey incubates the eggs for approximately 30 days while the male guards the nest cavity and gathers food to feed her. Baby greys fledge when they are 12 weeks old and both parents care for them until they reach independence.

The wild population of African Grey parrots is declining primarily because of illegal trapping for the pet trade and loss of habitat. The African Grey parrot is protected by CITES regulations which restrict the trade of wild caught species. Unfortunately, due to the African Greys' popularity as pets, many babies are still being stolen from nests. Sadly, it has been estimate that up to 90% of the trapped birds die before they ever reach the illegal market.


Listen to African Grey parrots in the wild:

View a video of a flock of African Grey parrots foraging in the wild:

Video Credit: World Parrot Trust

 Psittacus erithacus
    © 2015 Cornell University

To see more pictures and information on a particular species click the links below:

Common Name


Congo African Grey

Psittacus erithacus erithacus

Timneh African Grey

Psittacus erithacus timneh


Life Span: 40-60 yrs.
Length: 12 - 13" (30 - 33cm)

Congo: 400 - 500 grams

Timneh: 300 - 375 grams

 pic grey Timneh

 Timneh African Grey
    • Alex was a famous Congo African Grey parrot.  Alex could identify many objects by name, shape and color.  He could also count up to six and understood the concepts of "same", "different", "bigger" and "smaller".
    • N'kisi is another well known Congo African Grey with an amazing vocabulary, a sense of humor and possibly telepathic abilities!
    • When they feel threatened, African Grey parrots fluff up their feathers to make themselves look larger.
    • Right-footed African Grey parrots have a larger vocabulary than left-footed African Grey parrots!
    • African Grey parrots were hunted at one time for food and for their beautiful red tail feathers. The feathers were used for headdresses because they were thought to have magical properties.
    • The Ogoni people in Nigeria are protective of the African Grey population.  The villagers trade the naturally molted red feathers and trade them for books, clothing and school fees for their children.
    • Read a traditional Yoruba legend about the African Grey.
    • African Grey parrots were highly valued by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.  They were even considered to be more valuable than slaves.
    • Famous people who have owned African Grey parrots include Marie Antoinette, King Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, Hilary Swank and Angelina Jolie.
    • A transgenic African Grey named "Gerard" is a key character in Michael Crichton's novel, Next.
    • The African Grey is the national bird of Sao Tome and Principe, Africa.
    • An African Grey is depicted on the 2005 Congo 1000 Franc banknote: 

AfGrey banknote

    • African Grey parrots have been honored by many countries on postage stamps.  See more African Grey stamps here
stamp AfricanGrey stamp AfricanGrey2 stamp AfricanGrey3
    • Do a jigsaw puzzle of an African Grey.
    • Take a quiz about African Grey parrots.
    • Print an African Grey coloring page.
    • Watch a video of an African Grey parrot with amazing skills:

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