Species Profile - Congo African Grey

Common Name: African Grey - Congo

Other Common Names: African Ghana, African Grey Ghana, African Grey Camaroon, Grey Parrot

Scientific Name: Psittacus erithacus

Group: African Parrots

Origin or Range: Africa

Relative Size: 11 - 14"

Average Lifespan: 60 year(s)

Talking ability: Excellent

Noise level: Moderate

Cage requirements: 24 x 24 inches (24 x 36 is best); bar spacing 3/4" Or 1"

The African Grey Congo is a beautiful, intelligent parrot, that would make a wonderful addition to your family, as long as you understand their capabilities and have the patience to give them all that they need. Owning a parrot is something that takes lots of love and time, in order to have a good relationship with them. They have definite needs, and if fulfilled, you will have a lifelong friend.

There are many attributes to sharing your world with an African Grey Congo. They have the intelligence level of a five-year-old, yet the emotional level of a two-year-old. It is quite like having a perpetual toddler in your home. If unattended they have enough abilities to get themselves in trouble, so it is always important to keep an eye on them. Nevertheless, they love to interact with their family, and will like to be everywhere you are, whether at the kitchen table, or taking a shower. In the wild, the African Grey is a flock bird, so you and your family are their flock in their eyes. They want to be with you as much as possible. They do not necessarily have to be on you to interact but like to be included in the family activities whether it be watching TV or cleaning the house, as long as they are involved some way, they are happy. The African Grey is known for its talking ability. They usually begin talking anywhere from 3 months to 1 year of age. They are excellent mimics, and have the ability to not only repeat words and sentences, but just about any sound that is a regular in your household. Telephones, microwave beeps, coffeepots are easy for them to imitate. They can have in their repertoire as much as 2000 words. Not only do they speak just as if the person they are imitating is standing right there, they also can feel what we are feeling and are capable of reacting to our emotions. The do not always just repeat, they can understand some of what they say, by knowing the right response what is spoken to them. The African Grey Congo is without a doubt, very talented, but they are also very skittish. They are cautious of strangers, they have to be eased into new toys and new situations, but if you approach them quietly and calmly winning their trust, they can adapt and be very happy with their human family members. Once they trust you, they are so loyal, and love to have the back of their heads scratched. They will even snuggle under your chin, which is more likely to happen at the end of the day, when they are almost ready for sleep and relaxed.

The African Grey Congo is a medium size bird. They can range in size from 11-13" from their beak to their tail. The normal range for weight is between 400 and 650 grams. The baby parrot will have dark grey, even black eyes until they reach six months of age. After that, their eyes start to lighten, which is a good way to determine if a parrot is less than six months of age. From then until about two years, the eyes will be pale grey in color. When they reach adulthood, at approximately three years of age, they will have a light yellow coloring to their iris. Their beaks are solid black, and after about six to eight weeks of age, their tail feathers turn a beautiful bright red. Another way to determine a young Grey, is if they have they have dark grey tips to their feathers. Around their eyes, they are smooth and white. Most of their plumage is light grey, though some can be a bit darker. Their feet are a dark grey. If given the proper love and nutrition, these birds can live as long as 50- 70 years.

The African Grey Congo originates from Central Africa, from the southeast portion of the Ivory Coast extending to western Kenya, down to Tanzania and Angola. Greys from Congo can be somewhat larger, and those from Nigeria can be darker in their wing coverts.

Specific Care Information:
Like any parrot, a healthy diet is important for the African Grey Congo. In addition to a good pelleted diet, fresh fruits and vegetables are needed to give them good nutrition, though they cannot eat certain seeds such as avocado and fruit pits. Some good fruits and vegetables include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green & black-eyed peas, banana, and cantaloupe. They should also be allowed nuts such as almonds, rice, pasta, unsweetened cereal and eggs.

The African Grey is a highly intelligent parrot that requires constant stimulation and attention. If they do not receive enough of both they will usually develop behavior problems.

A highly problematic behavior problem seen in African Greys is feather plucking. This is a form of self- mutilation, which can range from moderate to serve. In moderate cases the bird will pluck some feathers, in severe cases they can pluck themselves almost entirely bald. The longer a parrot plucks the harder it is to break them of it. There are several causes of feather plucking, which include both behavioral and medical reasons. If your Grey starts to pluck it is critical that you consult your veterinarian before the plucking reaches severe levels.

Interesting facts:
There is still some controversy over whether the African Grey parrot is merely a superb mimic, or truly understands some of what it says. These birds possess an uncanny knack for using words in a situationally appropriate manner, leading some people to believe they have the mentality of a three year old human child. This belief is supported by an ability to problem-solve, as demonstrated by the famous grey parrot, Alex.

This information is provided by the “News from the Nest” newsletter.