All About Africa Greys!
Two species of African Grey Parrots, obviously native to Africa, are
commonly found in captivity: the Congo with a bright red tail and the
Timneh with duller coloration. Most free-ranging species are considered
threatened or endangered and efforts to protect these birds have resulted in
a ban on importation for pet purposes in the United States. High quality
companion birds are available from breeders. Research has shown that
African Greys are capable of actual reasoning and verbal communication
(beyond just mimicking). Some researchers even believe African Greys have
show intelligence levels equal to a 13-year-old human. There is some
speculation that males imprinted on humans may have difficulty in relating
to a female bird; exposure to parent birds during rearing may reduce this
tendency. Once initiated, African Greys are prolific breeders and the
offspring are easy to hand-raise.
What to Expect from Your African Grey
African Grey Parrots are extremely intelligent, alert and can be high-strung.
It is best to acquire these birds at a young age, because older poorly
integrated individuals can have objectionable personalities and vocalizations
that are very difficult to eliminate. Some aviculturists are initiating selective
breeding for calmness. There is a tendency for African Greys to form a bond
with an individual family member and become aggressive toward others,
especially during the breeding season. This is mostly true in birds on a seed,
nut, sweet vegetable and fruit diet. African Grey Parrots are considered to
be one of the five top companion bird species for potential mimicking. This
mimicking ability can include sounds like dripping water, flushing toilets,
squeaky doors, coughs or sneezes of family members, and answering
machines. They can carry on short meaningful communication.
What Do Greys Do All Day?
Because of their high intelligence, African Greys are easily bored and require
training. They are relatively playful and can be amused with some toys.
Because they love to chew, any toys must be free of toxic metals, hooks,
sharp objects or small, easily consumed components. Providing chew toys or
fresh-cut branches from nontoxic, pesticide-free trees is encouraged for
African Greys. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on locally
available safe trees.
Is Your African Grey a Male or a Female?
In most African Greys, it is difficult to distinguish a male from a female
based on physical characteristics; therefore, endoscopy or laboratory
methods must be used for sex determination in breeding facilities. There
may be some size or color variation between genders if the birds are from
the same subspecies.
What Your Vet Looks For in a Healthy Grey
Dry, Open Nares
Clear, Bright Eyes (No Discharge)
Alert, Erect Posture
Smooth, Bright Feathers Without Color Breaks, Transparency or Ragged
Body Free of Lumps and Bumps
Even, Reptilian Pattern on the Feet and Nails of Appropriate Length
Are African Greys Tame?
Young, hand-raised African Greys adapt readily to new surroundings and
handling procedures. They should be exposed early in life to novel situations
(car travel, hospital visits, multiple visitors in the household, other
household pets) so that they are well adjusted to these events. Adult birds
are less inclined to accept environmental changes and may feather pick.
Patience, discipline, leadership, hooding (covering the head), a sense of
ritual and the offering of rewards may be necessary to modify the behavior
of adult African Greys. Even then, they are not completely trustworthy and
may bite for no apparent reason.
Why The Wings Should Be Clipped
African Greys that are allowed unrestricted freedom in the home often
become dominate in their relationship with their owners. They can
encounter numerous physical dangers or toxins; therefore, wing clipping is
recommended. The goal of clipping the wings is NOT to make the bird
incapable of flight, but to prevent it from developing rapid and sustained
flight and to prevent escape. Because African Greys are particularly heavybodied birds, falls from over trimmed wings may result in severe damage to the chest.
How to Identify Your Bird
Two methods used to permanently mark companion birds for identification
purposes are tattoos and microchips (both are injected under the skin).
Individually number leg bands are not reliable for identification. Every bird
has a unique scale pattern on the feet. Photographs of the feet (updated
periodically as the bird ages) can be maintained in the bird's record to
confirm its identity and to prevent fraud that can occur with other
Housing for your Grey should:
African Greys are very curious and will investigate anything new in their environment. That is why it is important to prevent their access to:
ceiling fans, hot cooking oil, Teflon-coated items (overheated), leg chains,
sandpaper-covered perches, tobacco and cigarette smoke, chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol, toxic houseplants, pesticides, toxic fumes, easily dismantled toys,
dogs, cats, and young children, cedar, redwood and pressure-treated wood
shavings, sources of lead or zinc.
Most Common Problems with African Greys
Biting, screaming and Feather picking
Bacterial, viral and fungal infections
Calcium deficiency syndrome
Neuropathic gastric dilatation
Vitamin A (beta carotene) deficiency
Psittacine beak and feather disease virus
Many common disease conditions in African Grey Parrots are the result of
malnutrition. Visiting your avian veterinarian for routine health checks will
help prevent many of the above diseases and support you in having a long,
satisfying relationship with your African Grey Parrot.
How to Keep Your Grey Healthy, Happy and Safe!
Give lots of structured leadership training while young. Feed a fresh, high
quality, toxin-free formulated diet, such as Harrison's High Potency Course
Grind formula with daily supplementation of chopped vegetables and fruit
according to the instructions on the back of the bag. Grit is probably not
necessary with modern captive diets. Provide clean, fresh, uncontaminated
water (try using water bottles). Remove and replace food and water
containers twice daily. Provide occasional opportunity for bath, shower, or
misting (at least weekly). Weekly exposure to sun that has not passed
through glass and is not too intense is ideal. A minimum of fifteen minutes
is recommended. Avoid spraying house with insecticides.