African Grey parrots make wonderful pets, they're intelligent, beautiful birds with great “attitudes” which is why they make such brilliant companions to share a home with. However, be prepared for the long haul because when these birds are well cared for, they can live for a very long time.
If you are thinking about adopting or buying an African Grey parrot, they will be hand reared birds because in the UK and many other countries of the world, it's illegal to buy birds that have been captured in the wild due to the fact the numbers of African Greys in their native lands has decreased over the last few decades and they were heading for the endangered species list. In fact, their numbers are still dropping which is a real worry for conservationists and animal lovers alike.
It takes a lot of love, patience and time to build up a relationship with these clever birds, but once a bond has been formed – it is one that would be hard to break. African Greys are the clowns of the parrot world and love any kind of interaction with people but only once their trust has been earned. These delightful parrots are sometimes called Red-tailed Grey Parrots, and they're endemic to the rainforests of Central and West Africa, although they are also found on a few islands in the Gulf of Guinea.
African Greys have a reputation for being one of the most intelligent birds on the planet, they are quick learners and can mimic people's voices and other noises their hear to a tee. They are gentle characters, but they need to be well handled from an early age otherwise they tend to be rather independent and aloof birds. However, because all birds sold in this country are normally hatched in the UK, the chances are the breeders have taken the time to rear their young birds very well – but you need to contact a reputable breeder if you're thinking about buying an African Grey so you can be sure this is in fact the case.
There are in fact two sorts of African Greys, the first being the Congo Grey Parrot and the second being the Timneh African Parrot. Both birds share many of the same personality traits but Timnehs are thought to be the better “talkers” and are generally much less timid or nervous than their Congo counterparts. However, Congo Parrots will bond with one person really well if they are handled early enough and get lots of interaction with the people who rear them.
Because they are so clever, African Greys tend to get bored very easily which means if they are left to their own devices for long stretches of time, they can become very destructive as well as develop several behavioural problems, namely feather picking. Boredom is something to avoid at all costs with any parrot and this is just as true of African Greys because they will start chewing anything they can get their beaks into when they are bored. This is why African Greys need lots of interaction with their owners to keep them happy, content and in great shape.
One of the most famous African Grey parrots was a bird called Alex. He was owned by Dr Irene Pepperberg who proved to the world that African Greys possess tremendous cognitive abilities – this great bird could name over 100 objects and colours, he could even name some items by the material they were made out of.
Although it is incredibly tempting to adopt or buy an African Grey parrot, they are not the best choice of bird for first time owners. You need to give them loads of attention, spending as much time with your bird as you can, all the while interacting with them in a very positive way. It is a long term commitment and a friendship that could last up to 60 years or even longer. Owning an African Grey is pure pleasure and one that will last a lifetime.
African Greys are lovely birds, but they do present several challenges when it comes to training them. It can prove hard to stop them from doing what they love doing which is to chew things! When they are young they start discovering just what they can achieve using their beaks and they quickly learn how to bite if they are left to their own devices. They can learn to be a little naughty if they are not correctly disciplined but this needs to be done gently with tremendous patience.
An undisciplined parrot can chew through electric wiring and anything else they come across which can be not only very dangerous to them – but it could cause a house fire as well! If the bird is a rescued parrot, rehabilitation can be hard and birds should be handled by someone who knows African Greys inside and out.
It takes a lot of time and patience to train an African Grey which means loads of interaction with them. When you're not at home, they must have toys to play with to keep them from getting too bored, and it's always a good idea to leave a radio or TV on so they have company. This is a great way to teach them to speak too! They listen to the music and voices they hear and will eventually repeat certain things – including the music they like!
In the wild, African Greys will feed on palm nuts, which they adore. However, they also eat fruit and seeds as well as any leafy matter they can find. Some birds have even been seen to eat snails in the wild too. Captive birds should be fed a diet of grain, seeds, and specifically formulated pellets. You should also offer them some fresh fruit and vegetables from time to time. One thing to watch out for is calcium deficiency which African Greys are prone to – some birds will chew on cuttlefish but some will not and will need to be given a calcium supplement to make up for this or you could scrape some cuttlefish onto their food for them to eat.
African Grey Parrots live for a very long time – they boast a lifespan of around 60 years or more which means owning one of these lovely creatures is a long-term commitment. With this said, sharing your home with one means you have a friend for life – and one that will be brilliant company because they'll always be ready and willing to answer you back!