One of the most beautiful birds to keep as a pet and among the easier species of parrots to keep is the African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus). Originating from central Africa, they are highly intelligent and are known for their exceptional talking and cognitive ability. African Greys are capable of developing a large vocabulary, and are thought to be able to also understand speech to an extent, and may be able to communicate with their owners.
They are a medium-sized parrots growing to be about 10 to 14 inches in length. There are two different types of African Grey parrots, the Congo African Grey parrot and The Timneh African Grey.
They have some subtle differences, for example, the Congo African Grey is light grey and has a red tail, while The Timneh African Grey is a darker charcoal grey with a maroon tail. Typically the males are larger than the females and could reach 12 to 14 inches in length. Although the appearances of both sexes are the same, female African Grey parrots normally have a narrower head and a more slender neck.
The African Grey needs an owner that will make a long term commitment to caring for them. They have a long life span and are known to live up to 60 years. Because of there high intelligent and their uncanny ability to mimic human speech, African Greys require an owner that is experienced and patient, that can understand their needs. They easily become bored, and therefore, a stimulating and interactive environment is a must. Without intellectual and interactive stimulation, usually through toys, the boredom experienced by African Greys could turn into behavioral problems such as feather picking. The diet of African Grey parrots is similar to other parrot diets but with one major exception. African Greys metabolize calcium differently and it is therefore very important that they are provided feds high in calcium or provided with calcium supplements and vitamins. It is a good idea to have their calcium levels checked at least once a year. Food rich in calcium such as boiled and crushed egg shells sprinkled on the birds’ food, oatmeal, okra, kale, walnuts, almonds to name just a few. Deficiency of calcium in the parrots’ diet could result in a condition known as hypocalcaemia, with the parrot twitching and shaking in the mildest cases, not a very pretty site. Again because they are such sensitive birds, any problem could easily become a behavioral issue. Even a small change in their daily routine or in their surroundings could easily lead the African Grey parrot to crankiness and might lead to of self mutilation.
Although they are typically well-behaved and make very good pets, these birds do come with some challenges. African Grays’ that are undisciplined could get into trouble. They might chew wires or even bite their owner. They are very quick learners; they pick up behaviors so quickly, so when you notice a bad behavior, you can easily reverse it by teaching them appropriate good behaviors and then reinforce them.
African Grey parrots are social birds and make great pets. In the wild, greys typically flock together in a social community, as pets they will easily adapt to, and adopt their owner and her family as members of their flock. African Grey parrots have been known to cuddle with their owners. They do enjoy petting and head scratching, but do not like intense physical contact.
African Grey parrots have a very unique way of showing affection to their owners by regurgitating on them. Experienced bird owners know that this is a sign of affection and are not put off. They will also try to show affection by trying to “Kiss” their owners. This kissing attempt is very cute, but it should not be encouraged. The human mouth contains bacteria that are dangerous to birds.
It is very important for pet parrot owners to understand their pets need for companionship and attention. When bored, lonely and seeking attention, the African Grey may begin to vocalize excessively, pluck their feathers, start to bump themselves against their cages, or they may start to bite. Because of this tendency, greys might not be the best pet bird for a family with children. These birds use their beaks as a hand to explore the world. Their beaks are strong and hard, and could easily cause a lot of damage.
African Grey parrots are full of personality and human like qualities. They have been the source of research for many years and their intelligence is legendary. They have been kept as pets for thousands of years, from ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to present day regular folks that appreciate beautiful birds. Those who are lucky enough to own one are able to see this intelligence not seen in many other animals.