The average life expectancy of the African Gray Parrot is 60 years under good conditions; however, there are examples of even older birds in the literature.
Compared to its colorful South American cousin, the extravagant Ara, the African grey parrot looks quite modest. Slightly smaller, short-tailed and almost monochrome, the curved beak is less apparent, but behind this simple façade lies one of the smartest animals on the planet. If you buy a grey parrot, you will only have a pet, but a new family member very intelligent and self-confident.
At home in the canopy: Grey Parrots and their environment
In their African cradle, grey parrots live as typical canopy dwellers in tropical forests, mangroves, and wet savannahs in Africa. They are very careful, and although they occasionally visit cultivated areas in search of food, they avoid being near humans. Grey Parrots enter solid monogamous relationships and move in pairs or small groups throughout the day. At dusk, the animals become sociable and gather in large clouds in the trees where they spend the night.
There is a natural threat from nest predators and large birds of prey, but human intervention in habitat is much more serious. Grey parrots were introduced as pets to Europe by sailors, probably at the turn of the 16th century. Reproduction was successful in Europe from the 19th century on.
Chic in elegant grey: color variants in the African Grey Parrot
African Grey Parrots are divided into two subspecies: the Timneh Grey Parrot and the Congo. Both species are grey, there are only small feathers missing around the eyes. The plumage on the head is slightly lighter, the wax on the beak is white. The short, red plumage of the tail gives a brightly colored accent. The Timneh Grey Parrot is a little darker, with a rather red wine tail and the top of the brownish beak. The Parrot of Congo is black. Parrot lovers occasionally speak of the Royal Grey Parrot with reddish feathers on the body. These animals are neither a subspecies nor a mutation of color, it is in fact a symptom of deficiency manifested by the discoloration of the plumage.
Suitable living conditions for the Grey Parrot
You need at least one second animal for a gray parrot because living alone is not compatible with animal welfare, and a lot of space. The minimum dimensions of a bird aviary are 2 x 1 x 1 meter (width, depth, height), half of the space must be added for each additional animal. Such accommodation is suitable as a place for sleeping and feeding and for temporary security. Birds also need a lot of space to fly. Please consider that it is in the nature of all parrots to gnaw wood, paper, and basketry, please arrange the rooms accordingly.
Grey Parrots are very noisy: shrill cries and whistles are part of their usual repertoire. Tenants should be aware of their neighbors’ noise tolerance before purchasing them. Also, keep in mind that animals have a long life expectancy. The average life expectancy of the African Grey Parrot is 60 years in good conditions; however, there are examples of even older birds in the literature. Grey parrots are not beginners and are only suitable for people with prior knowledge of parrot farming. These sensitive birds respond quickly to a lack of attention and poor living conditions with behavioural problems such as aggression or feather pulling.
Food: What you need in the parrot’s bowl
The natural diet of the African Grey Parrot consists mainly of fruits and parts of plants such as buds and flowers. In addition, nuts and seeds are added: the bird takes everything available and quickly adapts to a modified food supply. The diet of the African Grey Parrot should include a large amount of green forage: Vegetables, fruits, corn, sheep, … You’ll soon see what your pets like.
You can add a good mix of seeds for parrots and some nuts. However, these must be dissected to prevent the transmission of tiny mold spores into the respiratory organs. African Grey Parrots also need a little protein each week in the form of white cheese or boiled egg. Give cuttlefish and limestone for adequate calcium intake. Warning: Be careful not to give avocado to African Grey Parrots, they do not tolerate them.
Can we tame the Grey Parrots?
Once you have gained the trust of an African Grey Parrot it will, in most cases, be quickly tamed. Like many parrots, these animals show a certain desire to be admired and praised. Their curiosity also pushes them to be part of everything that happens in the “cloud” and thus to participate in the lives of humans. They need attention and talk to them: animals would take it relatively badly if you didn’t have to devote enough time to them. African grey parrots become very affectionate if they are intellectually stimulated and receive good care. What’s more: They tend to be jealous and may have to hurt reactions if they were to suspect competition.
Birds have a great talent for speech and often spontaneously imitate the voices and sounds of their environment. They can also obviously link an object or situation to frequently heard words and use them themselves. African Grey Parrots are also considered extremely empathetic with a very good instinct. They recognize and respond to human moods in their environment. However, they also need some education: The Parrot will try to take the “leader’s position” in the family cloud should he see the opportunity. As with dog training, it is important that you assert yourself as an “alpha animal.”
The Grey Parrots and their intelligence
The intelligence of African Grey Parrots is legendary and has long astonished both parrot holders and scientists. African Grey Parrots use tools in captivity, such as collecting water from hollow objects and using sticks such as “back scrapers.” It cannot be ruled out that wild birds do similar things. The cognitive abilities shown by the African Grey Parrot Alex towards linguist Irene Pepperberg are absolutely fascinating. Extremely linguistically gifted, Alex had an active vocabulary of 200 human words and more than 500. He could name things exactly and even use words spontaneously in the right context. He also mastered the numbers up to seven.
The most amazing thing: The bird seems to have real self-awareness, was able to express wishes (like asking for a banana), and was upset by receiving another fruit instead. Experts compare the intelligence of African Grey Parrots to that of a kindergarten child. The intelligent bird will turn out to be an adorable family member, with whom you will never be bored if you respect him and his character!