Care and characterizes of grey parrot

African Grey Parrot: Species Characteristics & Care

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips



African grey parrots can do it all: they make excellent pets mimic human speech, and, with the proper training, can understand hundreds of words and phrases. Some say that the African grey parrot was kept as a pet for thousands of years—there are records of these birds as household pets in biblical times.

This parrot is characterized by its grey feathers and an uncanny talent for accurately mimicking words and phrases. It can also understand human speech, which has helped to catapult this bird to stardom in research circles and the pet trade.

Species Overview

COMMON NAMES: Grey parrot, African grey parrot, Congo grey parrot, Congo African grey parrot

SCIENTIFIC NAMEPsittacus erithacus

ADULT SIZE: Measuring about 13 inches, weighing just under 1 pound

LIFE EXPECTANCY: On average, 40 to 60 years in captivity

Origin and History

The African grey parrot is native to the equatorial regions of Africa, including the nations of Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The species’ favored habitat is dense forests, frequently found at the edges of forests and in open savanna areas.


African greys are the most intelligent of the parrot species. Many grow to be extremely sweet and affectionate toward their owners, and the species is known for being quite sociable.

However, an unhappy bird is an African grey that is bored or neglected. A depressed or angry bird will screech its discontent. You must provide the bird with lots of mental stimulation.

A brilliant bird is also a complex bird. Although it is very social and demands interaction, it is not necessarily a cuddly bird. Some of these birds tend to become “one-person” birds, even if owners try to socialize them with all family members.  

Speech and Vocalizations

Pet African greys pick up on words and sounds very quickly. One African grey has even “blown the whistle” on a woman’s love affair by repeatedly calling out the other man’s name in front of her husband and using the cheating wife’s voice.

Like toddler children, African grey parrots are known for repeating everything they hear. So, it’s wise to watch your language around these birds. Greys are adept at picking up and repeating sounds they like, including squeaky doors, vehicle backup chimes, fire alarms, microwave alert bells, and telephone ringtones. Owners need to be vigilant about what these birds hear—once a sound is learned, it is difficult or impossible for the bird to “unlearn” it. 

The African grey is not known as a loud screamer. It can be suitable for owners living in apartments or condos, although neglected birds may scream their dissent for being ignored and can get noisy.

How to Teach Your Pet Bird to Talk

African Grey Parrot Colors and Markings

The African grey, true to its name, sports mostly grey feathers, some with a beautifully thin, pale edging. There are two subspecies, Congo and Timneh greys. Congos are about a third larger than Timnehs. Congo African greys boast shiny black beaks and bright red tail feathers, while Tinmeh greys have horn-colored mandibles and deep maroon tailfeathers.

You can tell males and females apart once the birds reach adolescence, at least 18 months. A male African grey’s tail will remain solid red, while a female’s red tail feathers become tipped with silver. The undersides of a male’s wings become dark, while a female’s remains light. Other subtle sex differences include a male having a more slender, narrower head, while females tend to have longer necks with more prominent, rounder heads. If these differences are too subtle, you can get a definitive answer with a surgical sexing procedure or a DNA test.

Caring for an African Grey Parrot

The African grey is a medium- to large-sized parrot that needs adequate living space. The minimum cage size should have a 2-foot by 2-foot footprint and 3 feet height. Larger cages are preferable. 

Without much interaction and training, an African grey parrot may become depressed and exhibit self-mutilating behaviors like feather-plucking. 

These birds thrive when they have many opportunities to play with toys, interact with their owners, and learn words and tricks. Expect to spend several hours daily interacting with and training your African grey. Many owners report that African greys enjoy having television or radio playing when they are left alone. 

African greys are said to be somewhat sensitive and easily affected by stress and commotion. They may be more relaxed if the cage is placed in a quiet corner rather than the center. 

Guide to Pet Bird Species

Common Health Problems

African greys can be prone to feather picking, calcium deficiency, vitamin-A and vitamin-D deficiency, respiratory infection, psittacosis, and psittacine beak and feather disease. 

Vitamin deficiencies can be prevented by ensuring your bird eats a wide selection of fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, such as cooked sweet potato and fresh kale.

Feather-picking is usually the sign of a bored bird not receiving enough mental stimulation, attention, or exercise. 

Diet and Nutrition

African greys eat fruits, leaves, insects, bark, and flowers in the wild. The best food for an African grey in captivity is a high-quality, formulated pellet supplemented with fruits such as pomegranate, organic mango, and melon. Also, provide fresh vegetables, including leafy greens like arugula, watercress, kale, sprouts, and healthy seeds such as hemp and flaxseed. You can premake chop, a salad for birds, that will help keep your African grey parrot healthy and thriving.

Many greys also enjoy a variety of treats and snacks, such as nuts and healthy table foods like steamed green beans, breakfast toast, and salad.

Offer your bird a half cup of pellet-based parrot mix and a 1/4 cup of fruits and vegetables daily and adjust the quantity according to their appetite. Remove and discard all uneaten fresh food by the end of each day.

Seeds vs. Pellets: What to Feed Your Bird


Adequate amounts of activity are crucial to maintaining the health of an African grey parrot. Pet greys should be allowed to spend at least 1 to 2 hours out of their cages daily with vigorous exercise and provided with plenty of bird-safe chew toys to help exercise their powerful beaks.


  • Social, friendly, although do not like being cuddled
  • Intelligent, can speak and understand hundreds of words and phrases


  • Requires much attention and mental stimulation
  • They tend to be one-person birds, not the most excellent family pet

Where to Adopt or Buy an African Grey Parrot

Contact a local breeder and see if you can meet with them and their pets to see how these birds interact in a home environment. 

Breeders sell African greys in the range of $2,000 to $4,000. Signs you should avoid the breeder include cramped living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or need more information on their birds. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find African grey parrots include:

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If the African grey parrot interests you, you may want also to consider one of these other pet bird species:

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