Congo African Grey ParrotTimneh African Grey ParrotAbout African Grey Parrots

by Monica Gonzalez
published January 1999. rev 6/15/03

 

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Date last edited:  06/20/12


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The African Grey Parrot comes from a broad area of Central Africa. P.e. Erithacus being the nominate race, the Congo African Grey.  P.e. Timneh more commonly called Timneh African Grey. Given the appropriate nutritional requirements in a nurturing home, African Grey's can have a lifespan of 50-70 years.

The Congo African Grey Parrot is a medium grey bird with shades of light grey on the body. The feathers on the head have brushed white edging.  The eye area is of bare white skin. A solid black beak and bright red tail are the finishing touches to this magnificent parrot. Young CAG's have dark grey tips on their tail feathers.  They are also known as the "Red Tailed Grey". They vary in from 12-14" from beak to tail, also can vary in weight between 400-650 grams depending on the frame of the individual bird.

Greys from Nigeria usually have dark grey wings. CAG's from the Congo region are, on average, larger in size. On occasion you might  see a Grey with red feathering throughout the body - they are known as "Red Factor Greys".

The Timneh African Grey Parrot is a dark grey bird with shades of light grey on the body.  The eye area is of bare white skin. They have a "bone" colored upper mandible and a dark maroon tail.  The Timneh is smaller in size ranging from 9-11 inches beak to tail. Also TAG's can vary in weight from 275-400 grams.

The CAG and TAG as a baby parrots will have dark grey to black eyes up until they are roughly 6 months of age when their eye color starts to lighten. By the time they reach a year, their eyes become a pale grey color. At about 1.5 to 2 yrs their eyes will turn a pale straw color. And lastly at about 3-4 years of age, they will have a light yellow iris. This is one way to be able to determine an estimate of how old a baby is when visiting bird stores.  Grey's usually reach maturity at about 4-5 years of age.

Note: When speaking in context of African Grey's; I am referring to both the Congo and the Timneh species. The only difference between the two species is their physical appearance.

The most common phrase I have heard regarding African Grey's is "the perfect mix of brains and beauty". I often hear people say African Grey's are not as "colorful" as most parrots.  They apparently have not seen the true personality of an African Grey Parrot. They have a remarkable, noble beauty that takes your breath away!

African Grey's have the most extraordinary flair for speech. But do not think that they are limited to speech only!  They can mimic almost any sound in your home. Although most greys do not start talking until a year in age, there are many cases where they will speak earlier. Some greys do not start speaking until 2 years, so never give up hope!  They have the capacity to have a vocabulary of over 2000 words.  I would like to add this "food for thought"... there is no guarantee that a Grey will speak. This should never be the sole reason for buying a grey. (Please see our Talking Article.)  There is so much more to an african grey than just speech. a  They are more human than some will admit. They feel our emotions and act accordingly. They do not mimic, they learn from us. Speaking in sentences, responding appropriately to questions, the physical motions to comfort us when we are sad, the list goes on and on.

African Grey's have the intellectual capacity of a 5 year old child with the emotions of a 2 year old. Because of this higher intelligence, they can be demanding pets and rightly so. They require constant attention along with a stimulating environment that includes various types of  toys, a large cage, a play-stand.

Generally speaking, Greys are cautious birds. They have a tendency to sit back and watch you before giving themselves up freely.  They tend to not be very outgoing towards strangers. Then are very intuitive to your feelings and it is always best to approach them with a calm demeanor. Once you win the trust of an African Grey, he/she will be your best friend for life. They are very dedicated and loyal birds.  

My greys are very outgoing and playful in our home environment. Our home is their "safe place". They realize nothing will harm them here.  My birds love to boisterously and acrobatically attack their toys. You have never seen a parrot play until you have first handedly seen a Grey scream bloody murder at their toys! The infamous Grey scream, it is an experience you will not forget.

In sum... although African Greys are the most popular pet parrot, they are not for everyone. They stand apart from the rest. It is not easy being a caretaker of an African Grey or any parrot for that matter. Lots of love, time, patience and effort goes into the relationship we have with our avian companions. They give us so much more than we can ever return....  Are you ready to take the African Grey challenge?

 

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Drawings of Congo and Timneh African Grey Courtesy of "To The Point Design".