The African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), also known as the Grey Parrot, is a medium-sized parrot found in the primary and secondary rainforest of West and Central Africa. Experts regard it as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. Their intelligence makes them difficult but highly satisfying pets to keep as companions.
One should never desire an African grey because he or she wants a bird that talks. If you are fortunate enough to live with one of these wonderful creatures and he/she does learn to speak, consider it the icing on the cake. When it comes to talking, there is no difference between the male and female African greys’ ability to learn human language, nor any difference between the Congo or Timneh African grey. The average grey starts talking around 12 to 18 months depending on the individual bird. Some have been noted as early as 6 months of age. Most greys start out mumbling and practicing words when they are alone. They often surprise owners when they yell out their first clear word. A single grey household will often have a bird with a larger vocabulary then a multiple bird or multiple grey household. There are however, always exceptions.
African Greys normally mate several times a day for several weeks before the first egg is laid. A clutch may average 2 to 5 eggs. It's best not to bother the parents too much; maybe check the nesting box once a day when the parents are eating. You don't want to risk abandoned or broken eggs. The chicks should hatch 28 to 30 days later. Just before hatching, breeders note that the food consumption of the parent birds drastically increase as they physically prepare themselves for the demanding job of raising the chicks and are “stocking up” on food reserves that will be needed for feeding the chicks.
African Grey parrots captured in the wild need time and effort to adapt to human presence, and have a tendency to growl. Hand-fed African Grey parrots generally make wonderful and very affectionate companions. Pet owners often refer to their relationship with them as being "like having a five-year-old child." (See above.) They are generally thought to be the best mimics of all parrots. While this is probably true, the apocryphal reports of some Greys learning the "ultrasonic sounds" of TV remote controls are almost certainly false (most, if not all, remotes use infrared light rather than any frequency of sound to communicate with the TV). Anyone considering getting an African Grey parrot as a pet should note that they quickly become bored unless provided with stimulating toys and interaction with their owners. Their lifespans are 40+ years in captivity.
"What is all the fuss about, why was Alex so special?" and I'd say, "Because a bird with a brain the size of a shelled walnut could do the kinds of things that young children do. And that changed our perception of what we mean by 'bird brain.' It changed the way we think about animal thinking." That was the scientific truth I had known for many years, and now the idea was beginning to be accepted.
But last week Alex, an African Grey parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of its life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31. Scientists have long debated whether any other species can develop the ability to learn human language. Alex’s language facility was, in some ways, more surprising than the feats of primates that have been taught American Sign Language, like Koko the gorilla, trained by Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org in Woodside, Calif., or Washoe the chimpanzee, studied by R. Allen and Beatrice Gardner at the University of Nevada in the 1960s and 1970s.
Although there is little research on the structure and social interactions within wild grey flocks, we have anecdotal information as breeders observe their wild-caught greys in captivity. Grey breeder Pamela Clark describes her wild-caught breeding greys as being so sensitive and in tune with each other that they appear to operate as a "one-group-mind." She explains that they sit together, quietly and cautiously. They are always observing. They are conservative and watchful. They appear to have an affinity for one another.
Although grey parrots were the second most heavily traded parrot in the world in the 1980s, they are still common where large tracts of forest remain and are still numerous in some areas, especially in the Congo basin rain forests. Habitat loss in some parts of their range, including Nigeria to Sierra Leone, and extensive trapping have lead to population declines, especially around towns and cities. In the past, natives sold greys and often even hand-fed and trained them. However, they did not keep them as pets. Legal importation of grey parrots into the United States ended in 1992. Grey parrots are still legally trapped and exported from some parts of Africa to countries not yet participating in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
As his name implies, the African grey parrot is a gray bird that comes from Africa. Attractive gray birds with red tails were seen around 1402 in the Canary Islands, They had been imported from West Africa. To this day, African greys are found in western and central Africa, from Guinea to northern Angola. The British spelling of grey is used in connection with these birds because British sailors and explorers were among the first to bring African greys out of the jungle and make pets of them.
African greys need higher levels of calcium in their diets than most other parrot species. If they don't receive enough calcium from their diets their bodies will remove calcium from their bones, which can leave greys vulnerable to fractures. You can provide your grey with adequate amounts of dietary calcium by offering him calcium-rich foods. The best solution is to offer calcium-rich vegetables. Carrots, for instance, contains calcium. Other calcium rich foods include broccoli, kale, apricots, cabbage, endive, watercress, parsnips, beans, figs, lemons, limes, oranges, eggs, tofu, almonds and hazelnuts. You can serve these foods raw, lightly steamed or juiced.