AFRICAN GREY PARROTS
Congo African Grey : Psittacus erithacus erithacus
Timneh African Grey : Psittacus erithacus timneh
African grey parrots are stocky, short tailed birds. The body colors vary in shades of grey depending on the sex and where in the location they occur. The tail is usually bright red in the Congo African grey and the beak is black. African Grey’s have a greyesh white face patch from the beak to around the eye
Birds found in the more eastern areas of their range tend to be bigger and less grey in color. The eastern populations also tend to have some light red coloring in the feathers especially on the leg coverts. The smaller and darker birds are found in the western parts of their range. Timneh Grey Parrots are smaller, darker and have maroon colored tail feathers. Their upper beak is usually a dark horn color with a black tip.
Congo African Grey Parrots occur in Western equatorial Africa – from the Ivory Coast to Western Kenya, Angola, Tanzania and also in the South Zaire. They inhabit primary and secondary rainforest, forest edges and clearings, mostly in lowland areas. They are gregarious, roosting in colonies of up to 10,000 others. The wild diet consists of a different kinds of seeds, nuts, palm nuts, fruits and berries gathered in the canopy of the forest. They can also eat insects and worms.
Length- 13-14 inches – Weight- 400-550 grams.
Life Span – they can live probably up to 50 years, average probably 35 years.
Age at maturity – 3-5 years.
Immature birds have dark brown eyes which change while they grow to grey and to yellowish grey in adults. African Greys have a powder produced by feather on their flanks which helps to clean and protect their feathers. The powder may be allergidic to susceptible people. Meaning that some people migth be allergic to the powder.
PERSONALITY – African Grey Parrots are often considered to be the best talking of all parrots – rivaled only by some Amazons. They also have an incredible ability to mimic other sounds in the environment or home such as the telephone, microwave, car horns and the voices of individuals. Some highly trained individuals are also capable of reasoning and verbal communication. Young African greys don’t often speak well until they are about 1 year old and will typically mimic sounds first. Wild caught birds have an extraordinary repitore of whistles, clicks and calls and often sing and whistle during the night, especially on nights with a full moon. While they often talk a lot, African greys usually create noise problems. Young African greys adapt quickly to new surroundings and should be well adapted to many novel experiences at a young age. Adult birds are less adaptable to unfamiliar environments, dietary changes, etc and may pick thier feather at times in response to changes in their routine, such as the owner going away. African greys have a higher incedence of feather picking and feather chewing problems than most parrot species
ACTIVITIES – African greys are extremely playful and easily become bored, so environmental enrichment is important. They should always be provided with toys, especially wooden blocks of other objects which can be chewed, and branches from non-toxic trees. In order to ensure safety companion birds should not be allowed unsupervised freedom in the home as they often encounter toxins or dangerous items. Young birds should be socialized to many people and exposed to a variety of situations such as new cages, toys, visits to the veterinarian, handling by friends, wing and nail clips, etc to avoid fear of novel situations.
DIETARY NEEDS – African greys appear to require calcium differently than other psittacine species. Birds kept as indoor pets especially tend to develop signs of calcium deficiency which can be a serious health problem. Natural or full spectrum seems to be important in helping them maintain calcium balance. African parrots should be fed approximately ¼-1/3 cup of a formulated (pelleted or extruded diet) as a basis for good nutrition. The diet should be supplemented with approximately ¼ to 1/3 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Seeds and other treats maybe given in small amounts especially as rewards for good behavior. Fresh clean water must be provided daily.
Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds which are eating a formulated diet. Pretty Bird manufactures a special diet from African parrots with a more readily utilizable calcium source to help prevent calcium deficiency. African grey’s love peanuts, but they should be watched carefully and ideally shelled prior to feeding as they are often contaminated with Aspergillus fungus which can lead to aspergillosis.
African greys are easy to hand-rear even from the egg. Care must be taken in feeding very small chicks as they are easily aspirated. Pretty Bird 19/12 is a good hand-rearing formula for African greys. Chicks will wean or fledged at approximately 12 to 14 weeks. Chicks are subject to bony deformities such as dis-formed necks and legs. Calcium supplementation may be beneficial but should not be excessive.
GROOMING – Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Routine bathing will also stop feather dust. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or dried with a blow drier. Care should be taken not to clip the wing feathers excessively as African Greys often fall and injure themselves. This may result in open wounds on the often requiring surgical repair. Clip only enough so the bird will glide to the floor.
When restraining African Greys for grooming they may produce tears with blood. This is presumably from rupture of capillaries in the conjunctiva and does not appear to have any health significance of detrimental effect.
IDENTIFICATION – All companion and breeding birds should be individually identified to assist in recovery if lost and in maintenance of medical and genealogical records. Many breeders apply closed legs bands when chicks are young. While they present a slight risk of entrapment closed bands are preferable to no identification, especially for breeding birds. Microchips which can be implanted into the muscle or under the skin are a reliable means of identification but require electronic readers to verify identification. Tattoos may be used but often fade or become illegable with time. Foot prints may have some application in identification.
SEXING – African greys do not show definative sexual isomorphism (visual difference between the species) therefore endoscopic examination or laboratory sexing techniques are needed for accurate sex determination. If you compare females to males which are from the same region the females tend to be a lighter or more silver color of grey. The females also tend to have a grey edge on the red undertail coverts, which is absent in the male.
HOUSING – African parrots are very active and should be provided with as large a cage as possible. The cage should have two perches so the birds can move between them. Toy and activities should be provided.
BREEDING – African greys breed well in captivity. Some prolific birds will breed year round but most breed in the winter and early spring. Clutch size is usually 2-4 eggs. Some breeding greys are very shy and need privacy to breed well. Some pairs spend virtually all their time in the nest box if humans are near-by. Very shy birds may breed better in shady areas or in boxes with partitions to reduce light in the interior of the box.
CAGE SIZE – Should be at least 4′ x 4′ x 4′ or 3′ x 3′ x 6′.
NEST BOX – African greys will use a vertical, horizontal box 18″ x 18″ x 24″ or an L shaped box. Common Diseases.
Proventicular Dilatation Disease (PDD) is a deadly wasting syndrome that afflicts wild and domesticated birds worldwide.
Respiratory Diseases- Aspergillosis
Bacterial, viral, Fungal Diseases
Calcium deficiency disorder
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease
Bleeding eye syndrome – see grooming section
Many common health problems can be prevented by good diet, nutrition and routine health care. Routine veterinary examination (annually) can help you to keep your pet in excellent health and enhance your relationship with your bird.
Conservation status – Common and Stable – African greys are listed on Appendix II of Cites but only because of the listing of almost all parrot species.
African greys are very common in the marketplace and are one of the most popular and most frequently bred parrot in U.S.A.