African Grey Parrots -a talkative friend for life

African grey parrots are highly intelligent, social birds from the West African coast. They are now available in Australia to keep as pets; however you do require a special licence to own one of these exotic birds.

Features of African Greys

Appearance:

  • ‘Congo’ sub-species, from the western coast, are silver-grey with a bright red tail and a dark beak. This bird is about 30cm in length.
  • ‘Timneh Grey’ sub-species from the Ivory Coast, are a slightly darker grey with a maroon tail, and a lighter coloured beak. They are also slightly smaller in size.

Nature / Temperament:

  • Generally affectionate and social with humans.
  • Tend to bond strongly to a particular chosen person.
  • Highly intelligent.
  • Strong mimicking and talking abilities once over 1 year old.

Caring for an African Grey

Particular needs of these parrots include:

  • Lots of attention, affection and interaction.
  • Regular preening.
  • A stable environment.
  • A long-term commitment from its owners.
  • An environment with lots of stimulation to keep it happy and occupied.
  • Regular socialising so it does not become timid or introverted around strangers.

Pointers for choosing a cage for your parrot:

  • For the cage size, bigger is generally better. Some say that round cages cause problems for the bird’s orientation, so it may be a good idea to avoid these.
  • Fit the cage with a variety of natural wood perches which will encourage your parrot to climb.
  • Make sure he has easy access to food and water.
  • Consider a cage with a top opening to encourage him to climb and gain confidence.
  • Also, put other perches or stands around the house for your parrot to use.

Dietary advice:

  • Your Parrot’s diet should ideally be both nutritious and interesting. For a balanced diet it is best to feed your bird specialised pelleted food along with some other grains and proteins. Supplementing this with some green leafy vegetables and fruit will add nutrients as well as some interest to your bird’s diet.
  • Get your parrot checked each year for calcium deficiency which may require supplements, but don’t give extra calcium to your bird without your vet’s advice.
  • Don’t feed your bird lots of seeds as these are nutritionally inadequate and also high in fat.
  • Introduce your bird to a variety of foods from a very young age.
  • Inadequate diet may lead to distress in the parrot and could lead to behavioural problems such as feather plucking, lethargy, ill-health and hyperactivity.

Research on African Greys

Research at the University of Arizona on an African Grey called ‘Alex’ showed that he learned names for at least 35 objects. He was also able to speak phrases and even short sentences, and the results indicated it was more than mimicry; Alex appeared to understand the meanings of many words.

A final word about African Grey Parrots

African Greys can live 50 or 60 years in captivity. Adopting one of these birds is a long-term commitment and should not be taken lightly, as your pet will need constant care, interaction and companionship. He will however reward you with love, affection, loyalty and fun, and may even learn to talk with you!