Grey Parrot, African Grey
Approx. 64-70cm (25-28in)
Big variation and males usually heavier – approx. 380-480g
For everything you need for African Greys please click here.
Status in wild
Declining and threatened by excessive trapping and, in some areas, habitat loss.
West and central Africa. Ivory Coast in the west through Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic eastward to the Congo and DRC to Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda. Reportedly now extinct in western Kenya.
A Grey Parrot offered a seed mixture, plus apple, pear, grapes and orange, with a piece of biscuit or wholemeal bread, would be seriously deficient in the two most vital components of its diet – calcium and Vitamin A.
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A Parrot that eats carrot (par-boiled), raw or cooked red bell peppers (not chilli peppers), fresh apricots, dandelion roots and leaves would not suffer from a Vitamin A deficiency if several of these items were consumed daily. Or, if it refuses them, the simple addition of oil palm spread daily, perhaps on a piece of toast, will be even more valuable.
The slow decline in the health of many Grey Parrots is due solely to dietary deficiencies, especially that of calcium and Vitamin D3. Calcium levels are almost non-existent in seed, resulting in fits and, often, ultimately death before the age of 20, due to hypocalcaemia (calcium deficiency). A vet or good quality pet store can supply a calcium additive made for birds.
For calcium and other African Grey supplements please click here.
Put this inside a favourite food, such as a grape – not in the water. Note that cuttlefish bone alone is not adequate as calcium cannot be absorbed without Vitamin D3 or exposure to sunlight.
Fruits and vegetables provide some vitamins and minerals – but not in large amounts. These can include pomegranate (a great favourite), mango, sweet orange and Satsumas, cherries, banana, green beans, celery, beetroot, corn on the cob, sweet corn and sweet potato (cooked). Hawthorn berries are an excellent food and can be frozen for use throughout the year.
Greys do not like a change of cage. Buy the largest and the best quality cage you can afford. It should not be higher than it is wide. Place the cage in the corner of the room: a Parrot feels more secure if it cannot be approached on all sides.
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Grey Parrots are highly intelligent and quickly learn to outwit their human companions and to believe that they are in charge of you – which will probably be true! If a young Grey is not trained it will become a problem bird, dominate its owner and perhaps become aggressive with other people. If you cannot move it to its cage or another site when necessary, many problems will result. Start with basic but important requests: “Step up!” and “Off!”
As soon as a Grey is weaned it should be introduced to fresh branches of apple and willow, provided at least once a week. These help to keep nails and beak at the right length and the bark is nutritious. When kept correctly, it is not necessary to cut a Parrot’s beak and nails until it is old. If branches are not offered to young Greys they might be highly suspicious of them when they are older.
Teaching to Imitate
Buying a Grey Parrot because it can mimic is an insult to the intelligence of these highly sensitive and perceptive birds. Its ability or otherwise to talk should be irrelevant. Many owners of young Greys have expectations that are much too high.
Few Greys learn to mimic before they are about ten months old – unlike many other Parrots. And they will not learn at all unless they are happy in their environment and treated with the respect they deserve. The ability to mimic is not all good! Many Greys drive their owners mad with their faultless imitation of telephones!
The Mimic Me can help train your Grey.
More than most Parrots, Greys are very sensitive to the environment. If it is too dry or too hot, feather plucking can result. They should not be kept near a radiator. The opportunity to bathe is very important. If they refuse, misting with a plant sprayer – even though the Parrot may object – should be carried out after it is six months old.
However, the best solution is to construct an outdoor aviary (it need not be large) with part of the roof covered and the rest of welded mesh so that rain-bathing is possible. Access to fresh air and rain is not only highly beneficial to the plumage, but literally gives the Grey another outlook on life, preventing boredom and widening its horizon. It should be trained to enter a carrying box so that it is easy to move it in and out.
The list of lost Grey Parrots published in avicultural magazines is longer than that for any other species – and there is a heart-breaking story (as well as an act of carelessness) behind each one.
Wing-clipping is often to blame as it gives a false sense of security. Owners do not notice when feathers grow back or fail to realise that a Grey can fly when not all the wing feathers are present. Wing-clipping can have a very bad impact on Greys.
Birds which could previously fly can become very nervous and develop psychological problems due to the fear of falling. This often results in feather plucking. The physical development of young Greys will be arrested. If they cannot develop wing muscles when young they might never fly in later life. Wing-clipped birds are more inclined to become overweight because they cannot gain sufficient exercise.
If you have never kept a Parrot before, it is not advisable to buy a Grey Parrot. Parrot rescue centres are full of Greys whose former owners say: “If I had realised what was involved I would never have bought it.” The constant companionship and stimulation needed has been neglected, resulting in a feather-plucked and unhappy bird.
Click here for everything you need for an African Grey Parrot.