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2012 February

Parrot Articles > 2012 February | You are here

2012 February

Breeding African Grey Parrots

February 11th, 2012

The African grey parrot is a medium sized bird that has a history of being kept as a pet for over 4000 years. They were kept as companions by the ancient Greeks, a custom that was later continued by affluent Roman families who kept them in flamboyant cages.

There are two sub species of the breed, the Congo African grey and the Timneh African grey. The Congo is slightly larger than the Timneh and has red tail feathers. The Timneh usually has a darker colouration than the congo and has maroon tail feathers.

African grey parrots are often hand reared by professional breeders and handlers for the pet trade as they make affectionate and rewarding pets. They are usually long lived with an age span ranging from 25 to 50 years, this can vary dependant on diet, disease and stress. They are very intelligent birds, some have exhibited the ability to process words and information and respond with an appropriate response (ie a conversation rather than repetition). The birds are excellent mimics with a capability of over 2000 words as well as imitating household sounds such as phones ringing.

Getting African greys to mate and breed can be problematic as the birds have no specific mating season, initially the best way is to house a male and female in a cage until they have bonded (look for sitting next to each other engaging in mutual preening). Once this has been achieved purchase a nest box to imitate their natural breeding environment, the birds usually choose a small dense location therefore light and open conditions are not conducive to breeding. Look for cosy L shaped nest boxes, as well as some wood chippings to make sure your birds eggs remain secure. The eggs hatch within one month and need to be carefully removed to ensure the mother does not become distressed and aggressive. Hand rearing your birds is rewarding but requires lots of dedication. Chicks need to be kept in a brooder that can be adjusted for temperature as well as somewhere very clean as young chicks are prone to infection. Most breeders recommend spoon feeding (bent teaspoons are great shape wise) or syringes to feed your chick. Also ensure you have some quality scales to keep an eye on your chicks weight.

Your birds cage is its home and needs to be a sanctuary for your pet. With this breed in particular the cage needs to be as large as possible with room for exercise and horizontal bars for ease of climbing. A large cage door aids the bird when exiting and helps with ease of cleaning and castors are great for manoevre ability as the breed requires the stimulation of being moved into different rooms. The more you can spend on a cage the better as these birds require quality housing to keep them safe and secure. Its well worth taking advantage of online discount codes to get the best possible pad for your new companion!


Other About African Grey Articles

About African Grey Parrots
The African Grey Parrot is the perfect mix of brains and is we believe one of the most beautiful parrots of them all. This species of parrot has become quickly recognised as the … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrot Species Defined
The African Grey Parrots are all in the genius Psittacus. Only a single species makes up this genus, Psittacus erithacus. This species is further divided into three subspecies or races … Read More >>>

Mimicry And Intelligence
While comparative judgements of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively, Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being the most intelligent of birds … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrots As Pets
The history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots [verification needed]. The ancient Greeks also … Read More >>>


African Grey Parrots As Pets

February 11th, 2012

African Grey Parrot

A pet Congo African Grey ParrotThe history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots[verification needed]. The ancient Greeks also valued parrots as pets. This custom was later adopted by wealthy Roman families who often kept parrots in ornate cages. King Henry VIII of England also had an African Grey parrot. Portuguese sailors kept them as companions on their long sea voyages.

Today, many African Grey parrots are hand-reared by breeders for the pet trade, and they can make wonderful and very affectionate companion parrots; however, the methods used to produce the birds for the pet trade greatly affects their behavior and “pet quality” once the birds are mature at 2 to 4 years old. The hand-rearing process deprives the birds of parental interactions, which results in the birds becoming imprinted on humans at maturity. This is done primarily to produce tamer birds, as they learn how to interact with other animals from their parents’ behavior, and the often untamed breeder birds may pass down a fear of humans. The degree to which a bird was hand reared may vary depending on the breeder’s method – some are hand-reared from the point of (artificial) incubation, while others may be left with their parents for a few weeks. The degree to which a bird has been deprived of its natural parents can adversely affect its behaviour once it is an adult; birds which have been raised at least partially by natural parents tend to show fewer behavioural problems (such as plucking or fearfulness) upon maturity (Schmid et al 2005), though birds raised entirely by their parents may be less tame. Some breeders may hand rear babies in the presence of tame adult pet Greys that may serve as role models for the babies. Also to be considered is how a baby grey is weaned and fledged. A baby Grey should be abundance-weaned (allowed to wean at its own pace) and be allowed to learn to fly. Force-weaning and clipping a baby before it learns to fly are believed to occasionally cause development of fearful behaviors when the young grey reaches several years of age. Some grey parrots may not be compatible with small children. African Grey parrots are very strong and can inflict serious wounds on human flesh with their powerful beaks. Their nails are naturally sharp and can scratch, though the birds do not use them aggressively. Pet owners often liken the experience of keeping an African Grey to that of raising a young child – not only because of the birds’ intelligence, but also from the substantial time commitment required. While captive-bred birds usually assimilate into their new households with relative ease, wild-caught African Grey parrots (which are no longer legally available in the US or EU) can find it difficult or impossible to adapt to life in a cage as a pet. They may show great fear of humans, emit a growling sound as a fear response, and may panic when approached. Unlike more common pets, African Grey parrots have not been greatly “modified” by selective breeding; they are only available as wild-type birds. As opposed to the many color varieties available in budgies and Rose-ringed Parakeets, the closest African Grey Parrots get to a color variant are the “Cameroon African Greys” which are a natural variation of the normal wild bird’s colour.

African Grey parrots, like most pet parrots, are considered by many[who?] to be very high-maintenance pets, as they require a good deal of personal attention and many hours each day out of their cages. While numbers vary with each source, most[who?] agree that three hours out of cage daily and 45 minutes of physical interaction is the minimum attention required for good mental health. African Greys, particularly Congo African Greys, are known to be wary of strangers, and tend to bond solely with their main carer if they do not interact with different people regularly. While interspecies friendships with other parrots are uncommon, as African Greys are essentially social animals, they will benefit from being kept in the company of other birds.

African Grey Parrot

Juvenile Congo African Grey Parrot. Irises are dark grey.Grey parrots are prone to behavioral problems if they are not provided with a stimulating environment and allowed plenty of time out of their cage each day. They should be given a range of regularly changed toys to keep them occupied, including destructible ones made from natural materials such as cardboard, wood, or natural fibers. Toys should also include “puzzle toys” or “foraging toys,” which hold food treats that the bird must learn how to extract from the toy. Boredom and overuse of the cage can typically lead to problems such as self-plucking, where the bird damages or removes its own feathers. Many Greys are traditionally kept in cages too small to allow the bird to fly, and occasionally for young, clumsy or very nervous Greys (often Greys that have been clipped at a young age), a smaller cage may indeed be necessary for a time to avoid the bird from falling and injuring itself or becoming frightened. However, most Greys will benefit greatly from a large cage which allows more space for different perches, toys, and exercise. Provided the bird spends several hours each day out of the cage, interacting with its caretaker and/or other birds and people, a cage which is 4 feet long by 3 feet deep and 3 feet high is adequate. The bar-spacing should be 1/2 inch to 1 inch. The height of a cage is typically not important, except in the case of playtop cages that are taller than the owner, in which case the bird may show some aggressive behaviours. Grey parrots kept as companion animals should have access to a range of other places within the room in which they are kept, including a playstand holding a range of perches and further toys. A companion African Grey should be kept in a bird-safe environment and placed in a fairly ‘busy’ part of the home, such as the living room, to allow the bird to be occupied with observing the household activities. However, the cage should always have a solid back or be placed against a solid wall, as this helps to give the bird a feeling of security not otherwise available due to the “goldfish bowl effect” of being in a cage.

Grey parrots should be trained to accept some requests or “commands” from their carers, including flight requests; this ensures most birds can fly safely and removes the ‘need’for wing-clipping. Wing clipping is very controversial. Some owners prefer to clip to prevent potentially dangerous indoors flying. However, wing clipped birds are no safer than full-winged birds, but merely subject to different risks as pet birds (Glendell 2007). African Greys are heavy-bodied birds and more prone to clipping-related problems than some other parrots. Clipped birds may crash and injure themselves, often on the sternum. Clipping birds may also damage new “blood” feathers, as these grow down in the moulting process, which can result in painful persistent bleeding. Severely clipped birds may have balance problems and fall often. Preferably, greys should not be clipped at all. If a Grey is clipped, it must be done by someone who understands the moulting sequence of the bird so as to avoid damage to blood feathers when these grow down on a clipped wing during the bird’s moulting period. A clipped Grey should still be able to fly or glide short distances to avoid injury. Birds with clipped or damaged flight feathers can have flight restored immediately by a specialist avian vet imping (splinting) donor feathers back onto the bird’s clipped feathers.


Other About African Grey Articles

About African Grey Parrots
The African Grey Parrot is the perfect mix of brains and is we believe one of the most beautiful parrots of them all. This species of parrot has become quickly recognised as the … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrot Species Defined
The African Grey Parrots are all in the genius Psittacus. Only a single species makes up this genus, Psittacus erithacus. This species is further divided into three subspecies or races … Read More >>>

Mimicry And Intelligence
While comparative judgements of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively, Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being the most intelligent of birds … Read More >>>

Breeding African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots are often hand reared by professional breeders and handlers for the pet trade as they make affectionate and rewarding pets. They are usually long lived … Read More >>>


African Grey Parrot Mimicry & Intelligence

February 11th, 2012

While comparative judgements of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively, Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being the most intelligent of birds. African grey parrots are particularly noted for their cognitive abilities, which are believed to have evolved as a consequence of their history of cooperative feeding as largely tree-dwelling birds in central Africa.

Irene Pepperberg’s extensive research with captive African greys, especially the one known as Alex, have provided evidence that these parrots are capable of associating human words with their meanings, at least to some extent, though these conclusions are disputed. Ambitious claims of language use have been made for another African grey, N’kisi, who has a vocabulary of around a thousand words and speaks in sentences.[citation needed] Although there exists a great deal of debate as to just how well these birds actually understand the meaning of the words they speak, there is little doubt that Greys and other parrots (especially macaws and cockatoos), along with corvines (crows, ravens, and jays), are highly intelligent in comparison with other birds.

It is widely believed in the parrot-keeping community that Greys understand their human companions at various human intelligence levels. For example, some believe that a young Grey (under a year) has the equivalent understanding of a human toddler and the cognitive ability of a 6-year-old human child.

Many greys are excellent talkers, with a capacity of over 1500 words. They don’t repeat all words they seem to favour a few and just learn new ones and say the words they know at random along with household noises such as the telephone ,doorbell or microwave, often so well that they confuse their owners! greys have a unique capacity for putting their words and sounds into the right context as opposed to simply repeating them, which shows their intelligence, Our grey Reggie will call my son and tell him to go and put on his shoes as we are going in the car simply when he hears me pick up the car keys!


Other About African Grey Articles

About African Grey Parrots
The African Grey Parrot is the perfect mix of brains and is we believe one of the most beautiful parrots of them all. This species of parrot has become quickly recognised as the … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrot Species Defined
The African Grey Parrots are all in the genius Psittacus. Only a single species makes up this genus, Psittacus erithacus. This species is further divided into three subspecies or races … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrots As Pets
The history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots [verification needed]. The ancient Greeks also … Read More >>>

Breeding African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots are often hand reared by professional breeders and handlers for the pet trade as they make affectionate and rewarding pets. They are usually long lived … Read More >>>


African Grey Parrot Species Defined

February 10th, 2012

The African Grey Parrots are all in the genius Psittacus. Only a single species makes up this genus, Psittacus erithacus. This species is further divided into three subspecies or races:

African Grey Parrot Species Defined : P.e. erithacus – the nominate race.

African Grey Parrot

The terms “Congo”, “Ghana” and “Cameroon” all refer to supposed slight color and temperament variations of this subspecies. This is the subspecies most often pictured in books and articles about African Greys. The bird is about pigeon sized with a bright red tail, a solid black beak, and a light gray feathered body. Most every written or unwritten source (Bird Talk, American Cage Bird, breeder ads in these magazines, “The Guide to the Well Behaved Parrot” (a.k.a. the r.p.b. bible), the r.p.b. newsgroup, every exhibitor at every bird show we’ve attended and every pet store we’ve visited) refer to this subspecies as a “Congo” or a African Grey Congo. In rec.pets.birds the acronym CAG is used to refer to Congo African Grey.

African Grey Parrot Species Defined : P.e. Timneh

This is the “other grey”. Commonly called Timnehs or African Grey Timnehs. These birds are on the whole smaller than the nominate race. The body feathers are dark gray. The tail is a duller maroon or red brown color. The upper mandible of the beak is all or partially bone colored. We have seen imported Congos are smaller than either of our Timnehs. We have also seen some Congos with body feathers that are as dark gray as our darker Timneh with less than bright tail feathers. However the beak color always has been the easiest most consistent differentiation. In rec.pets.birds the acronym TAG is used to refer to Timneh African Grey.

Timneh Grey

Timneh Mutations

Several mutations occur naturally in the wild, like the F2 Pied Mutation, which results in a broad red band across the abdomen. 1998 saw the first created Grey mutation when South African bird breeder Von van Antwerpen and New Zealand partner Jaco Bosman selected F2 Pies and created the first red African Grey.

Other mutations include:

  • Albino (no pigment)
  • Lutino (yellow pigment)
  • Incomplete Ino (mostly white, but with small percentage of melanin)
  • Grizzles (soft pinkish scalloped found in its feathers)
  • Blues (white pigment in the tail)
  • Parino (very light scalloping found in its feathers)

African Grey Parrot Species Defined : P.e. princeps

Princeps African Grey Parrot

Some articles we’ve read have suggested that this subspecies is extinct or has interbreed with the nominate race so much that any visible difference has vanished. This subspecies is (or was ?) limited yo two islands in the Gulf of Guinea (Principe and Fernando Poo). Forshaw in his “Parrots of the World” states that “this subspecies is probably not distinct from erithacus”. The bottomline is you probably won’t find one offered for sale by a breeder, pet store or bird show and you wouldn’t recognize one as anything but the nominate subspecies if you did see one. We can’t remember a posting in rec.pets.birds that discuss this subspecies.

Okay, now we’ve laid out the scientific classification stuff, but what do you, the perspective pet owner need to understand? Just this, from a practical standpoint you have two subspecies of African Grey Parrots to choose from as your pet. These two subspecies are currently referred to “Congos” and “Timnehs” by 99% of those dealing with these birds.

One last note about naming and this is mostly our opinion and comment. If you were to read Bird Talk issues of five years ago you’d find that it wasn’t as simple as “Congo” equals nominate and “Timneh” is the Timneh subspecies. The “Ghana” and “Cameroon” terms were attempts by those breeding and in the pet trade to differentiate their “wares” from those of their competitors.

The results was confusion. Now that things seem pretty straight forward a few members of the “African Parrot Society” seem to want to stir the pot again. They have suggested that the common name for the nominate subspecies become “African Grey Parrot” while the name for the Timneh subspecies become “Timneh Parrot”. This sort seems like a deja vu since those suggesting striping “African Grey” from the name of the Timneh subspecies breed the nominate race for profit and would likely gain financially if people thought of their “product” as the only true “African Grey”. They claim this proposed change is to avoid confusion, however we’ve never met anyone confused by the “Congo” = nominate and “Timneh” = Timneh subspecies terminology.


Other About African Grey Articles

About African Grey Parrots
The African Grey Parrot is the perfect mix of brains and is we believe one of the most beautiful parrots of them all. This species of parrot has become quickly recognised as the … Read More >>>

Mimicry And Intelligence
While comparative judgements of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively, Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being the most intelligent of birds … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrots As Pets
The history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots [verification needed]. The ancient Greeks also … Read More >>>

Breeding African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots are often hand reared by professional breeders and handlers for the pet trade as they make affectionate and rewarding pets. They are usually long lived … Read More >>>


About African Grey Parrots

February 10th, 2012

Baby African Grey Parrots

The African Grey Parrot is the perfect mix of brains and is we believe one of the most beautiful parrots of them all.

This species of parrot has become quickly recognised as the best speaking parrot of the lot, I write this while listening to Reggie our family Grey chatters in the background, god knows where he picks up half the things he says, he seems to pick up words and string them together, now that’s intelligence to the higher degree!!!

While many parrots learn some words or phrases, many cases have been documented of African Greys learning multiple lines of songs, prayers, or plays. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the best talking parrot or parrot like bird as a African Grey named Prudle. Prudle was captured near Jinja, Uganda in 1958 and when “he” retired from public life in 1977 had a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words.

The speed in which African Grey Parrots can pick up new words is phenominal, they can pick words only after hearing them a handful of times, so be warned if you are considering taking on a pet African Grey Parrot just be very careful what you say in earshot of it, Reggie has an amazing vocabulary of obsecenities, which can be somewhat troublesome when you have children or the boss visiting for dinner.

African Grey Parrots don’t just mimmick speach they also pick up all storts of weird and wonderful sounds, Reggie has a habit of dialing a number on the mobile telephone, having a conversation with some random person, saying goodbye then hanging up with the beep of the phone. You could quickly find your pet African Grey mimmicking the microwave, other birds or animals you have in the house or even trumping if you have a flatuance problem. Many owners and some studies suggest that Greys (and other parrots) don’t just mimic but can use words learned in new combinations to convey new wants, needs and desires. Alex, a famous Grey that has been studied for years by Dr. Irene Pepperberg, invented the term “long yellow” to express his desire for more corn on the cob. A European study found Greys to have the intellectual capacity of a 5-year-old human child with the emotional development of a human 2 year old (read as terrible two year old).

African Greys have become extremely popular in homes all over the UK and are not as exotic as other parrots you may wish to own, they are pretty easy to breed given the right conditions, they’re retrospectively inexpensive they don’t take up as much space and they love human interaction … the perfect mix.

There are three species or types of the African Grey Parrot they are Psittacus Erithacus, Psittacus Erithacus Timneh and Psittacus Erithacus Princeps all of which are explained on the African Grey species page.


Other About African Grey Articles

African Grey Parrot Species Defined
The African Grey Parrots are all in the genius Psittacus. Only a single species makes up this genus, Psittacus erithacus. This species is further divided into three subspecies or races … Read More >>>

Mimicry And Intelligence
While comparative judgements of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively, Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being the most intelligent of birds … Read More >>>

African Grey Parrots As Pets
The history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots [verification needed]. The ancient Greeks also … Read More >>>

Breeding African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots are often hand reared by professional breeders and handlers for the pet trade as they make affectionate and rewarding pets. They are usually long lived … Read More >>>


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Parrot Articles > 2012 February | You are here