Originally found in Central Africa, they can often communicate effectively with their owners and develop a broad vocabulary due to their high cognitive ability and intelligence.
They are considered a medium-sized parrot and grow to between 10-14 inches. There are actually 2 varieties of African Grey parrot, the Timneh African Grey which is a darker grey color, like charcoal and has a maroon tail. The second variety is the Congo African Grey and has a red tail and lighter grey coloring.
The appearance of the male and female are similar however males are typically larger than females and the females have a slightly narrower head and more slender neck.
African Grey’s can live beyond 60 years and with such a long lifespan for a pet they need an owner who is able to make that long term commitment. Also due to their high intelligence it is important that the owner provides a stimulating and interactive environment otherwise their parrot may become bored (which can easily happen) and this can lead to behavioral problems such as excessive squawking or feather picking. Other factors which may have a detrimental effect on behavior, things as small as a slight change in the Parrot’s surroundings or daily routine may well cause an African Grey to show signs of self mutilation or becoming grouchy.
They pick up behavioral patterns easily and although typically they are well behaved pets it is important to positively reinforce good habits and make a conscious effort to drop bad ones, as an undisciplined African Grey can cause a fair amount of trouble, like chewing through cables or wires and biting people but as previously mentioned all of that can be avoided with some forethought and diligence on the owners part.
Due to their very social demeanor, African Grey’s make fantastic pets. If found in the wild they would be flocked together and this characteristic can be found when an African Grey is adopted by an owner the parrot will adopt its new owner into it’s flock.
They dislike intense physical contact however there have been reports of them cuddling with their owners and they are known to enjoy head scratching and petting. They also have some strange signs of affection and you should not be alarmed if you see an African Grey regurgitate his food as this is a deep sign of affection and should in fact be praised as this will strengthen the relationship with the parrot. Another sign of affection is when a Grey tries to ‘kiss’ their owners mouths and although this may seem very cute this is in fact dangerous for the parrot as the human mouth contains certain bacteria that are dangerous to birds.
African Grey owners must also recognize their need for companionship so a family environment you may think is ideal, however if the owner has small children they may not understand the parrots’ complex behavior and the fact that a parrot’s primary way of exploring is with his beak which is hard and strong and so can result in a danger to not only the children but the parrot as well.
With their engaging and somewhat human like character people who are fortunate enough to own an African Grey are able to learn of their intelligence rarely equaled in the animal kingdom let alone other pets.