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By April 11, 2015 Exotic No Comments

One of the most intelligent birds ever studied, the African grey parrot has an amazing ability to imitate human speech and precisely mimic sounds within the environment (for example, ringtones and doorbells). African grey parrots can be affectionate, entertaining, and rewarding companion animals; however, owners must be knowledgeable and conscientious to fully enjoy the qualities of African grey parrots. These birds prefer a routine schedule and a stable environment within their enclosure, and they require a substantial amount of interactive time with their owners to develop a trusting, enjoyable relationship. Therefore, African greys may not be appropriate for people who work odd hours, travel frequently, or spend a substantial amount of time away from home.

Biologic Facts

  • There are two subspecies of African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus):
    • The Congo has a larger body, light gray feathers, a black beak, and bright red tail feathers
    • The Timneh has a smaller body, dark gray feathers, a flesh-colored top half of the beak, and dark maroon tail feathers
  • Average weight: 0.7 to 1.1 lb (330 to 500 g)
  • Young birds have dark gray irises that turn pale yellow at 1 year of age
  • Sexual maturity: 2 to 4 years
  • Average life span: 30 years
  • Maximum recorded life span: 50+ years
  • Origins: west and central Africa


  • African greys frequently bond with one family member and reject others
  • They are often fearful or intolerant of strangers
  • Parent-raised African grey chicks are considered to be better adjusted than those raised entirely by humans; baby birds that are handled by people while still in the nest tend to have fewer behavioral problems (for example, feather picking, fearfulness, aggression) at maturity than birds that have not been handled by people
  • Birds that are comfortable around humans readily adapt to new surroundings and activities; therefore, African greys should be exposed early to daily household activities and to other pets
  • African greys are intelligent and curious and enjoy exploring their surroundings
  • They need environmental enrichment, interesting toys, and foraging exercises to reduce the chance of behavioral problems
  • Any African grey will be uncomfortable with new additions to its environment (for example, toys, cage furniture, perches); therefore, a new addition should be placed on the outside of the cage and slowly moved, over time, into the bird’s enclosure
  • African greys show their displeasure through a vocal “growl”


  • Wild African greys eat various fruits, nuts, and vegetables
  • Although the African grey’s natural diet cannot be duplicated in captivity, a varied diet is recommended for both nutritional range and psychological stimulation
  • Seed-based diets are not recommended as a primary diet, although “parrot seed” should be provided as a small percentage of the total food offering
  • Formulated diets (pellets or crumbles) provide more complete and balanced nutrition, do not allow selective feeding, and should compose about 75% of the diet
  • Dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits can compose 20% to 25% of the diet; this part of the diet should be cleaned from the cage daily to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth
  • Treats should be limited to only 5% of the diet
  • Clean, fresh water should be provided daily; a sipper bottle that is placed on the outside of the cage is recommended because it prevents the bird from defecating in its water and reduces the chance of spillage


  • The enclosure should be as large as possible to allow the bird to fully extend and flap its wings without touching the cage
  • The cage should be clean, secure, safe, and constructed of durable, nontoxic materials
  • Perches should be variable widths, heights, and textures; natural hardwood perches are the best material for these required cage structures
  • To prevent contamination, perches should not be placed directly over food or water
  • Access to natural light is preferred, and supplemental ultraviolet light may be recommended to treat or prevent feather picking or hypocalcemia
  • Areas with sudden environmental temperature fluctuations should be avoided; pet birds acclimate well to gradual temperature changes within a household environment from winter to summer
  • When not directly supervised, the bird should be kept in its cage or a “bird-safe” room
  • Birds with unrestricted access to the home are at risk for accidents such as toxin ingestion, electrocution, pet attacks, and drowning

Preventive Care

  • A physical examination should be performed every 6 to 12 months
  • Consult a veterinarian with experience in avian medicine if you have any questions or concerns about your bird’s health
  • An annual fecal examination should be performed to check for parasites, yeast, and bacteria
  • Vaccination against polyomavirus should be performed as directed by your veterinarian
  • Routine blood testing is recommended
  • Wing and nail trimming can be performed as needed

Common Medical Disorders

  • Behavioral problems, including feather picking, fearfulness, and aggression
  • Respiratory diseases (for example, fungal infections)
  • Hypocalcemia syndrome (a low blood calcium level)
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (circovirus infection)
  • Nasal blockages and/or nasal growths (caused by reactions to bacterial and/or fungal infections)
  • Proventricular dilatation disease (a disease that affects digestion)

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