African Greys are one the most wanted parrot species as a pet. It is due to a simple fact that they talk and are extremely intelligent. Most people want a parrot that talks, which is a misconception because not all African Greys talk.
Most times the end result leads the person to give up the parrot because of the responsibility an African Grey can be. There is a lot of responsibility with owning one of these special species.
|A Congo African Grey Parrot in Herborn Bird Park, Germany.|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sparky, our three-year-old Grey, will answer a question when one is asked or respond when my wife and I are talking. I was asking my wife a question and she had not responded and Sparky replied "What?" just as she would say "What?" I can go on the many things Sparky says, responds and finishes off in a sentence, which even surprises me.
A notable African Grey N'kisi, a Timneh an African Grey, who in 2004 was said to a have a vocabulary of 950 words. When Jane Goodall came to visit him in New York he greeted her with "Got a chimp" He knew Jane Goddall from watching TV and seeing her in pictures with chimpanzees in Africa.
There is also Alex the famous African Grey, which was a Congo, that Dr. Irene Pepperberg worked within a scientific setting. He had the ability to associate simple words with meanings and intelligently apply abstract concepts of shape, number, size, color, and zero-sense. The day before he died Alex's last words to Dr. Pepperberg was "You be good. I love you." May Alex rest in peace. Yes, these two notable Greys displayed an outstanding sense of intelligence for an animal.
Please keep in mind that not all Greys talk or show such intelligence. This should not be a reason to get this type of parrot. Greys require a lot of love, attention, stimulation, and responsibility. Due to the intelligence, you need to keep them stimulated, occupied and showered in love. Yes, all parrots require this, but Greys seem to need more of the stimulation and being occupied than other parrots.
Misconceptions of an African Grey.
Misconceptions of Greys are arguable. Many people say an African Grey is neurotic and one person birds. Some say they scream, pluck their feathers, are high-strung, nervous and they bite. This depends on your household and how you raise your Grey.
Greys need to be socialized. This is a very important factor to know when you get it from the bird store or the breeder. Having a socialized baby Grey will build its confidence and disposition. When you bring it home have everybody and I mean everybody interacts with it. Like any parrot don't let it be favored by one individual person, everybody in the household needs to interact with the baby.
Some people agree and disagree to let a baby Grey keep their flight feathers for a month or two when bringing it home. Some critics say that Greys are awkward and clumsy and will hurt themselves. Others believe it helps them build self-confidence and security. With the latter we decided to let Sparky keep his flight feathers when he came home, yes he flew from the cage across the room to the couch but he never hurt himself. However, after a short period of time he soon began to copy our Amazon and would run around on the floor, chasing him and this continues to this day. We felt he was ready to have his wings clipped and with the end result being a positive one. Severe wing trims when a Grey is a baby can lead to insecurity and no self-confidence. It can lead to further insecurities and fears as they grow up.
Sparky is probably one of the most confident little guys I know and has no fear of anything. You can bring a new toy and he is at it with a vengeance, new food is a great treat to him and digs in and new situations are a little weird at first to him but he settles right in after a couple of hours. We have moved two times in his short threes of being with us and we have had none of the preconceptions of a Grey and have gone on two vacations, which one was for ten days. He had a blast at the babysitters, not as much fun as home but he was fine when he came back home.
Neurotic type behaviors are formed when they are stressed, have insecurities and a lack of self-confidence. African Greys are hardwired for to flee from danger and we are expecting them to understand all the strange things about its environment we have put them in. They do not have their flock to protect them. African Greys live in large flocks that forage on the ground together. They go from their roost and find food on the ground and trees. Keep in mind that baby Greys remain in their family unit much longer to develop emotionally than when they are being hand-fed. They are still wild animals and still have that sense inbuilt in them. Parrots have not been domesticated over a long period of time. Many parrots that are domesticated are one or two generations in. Greys must be entertained and kept busy or they become stressed and will show self-destructive behavior.
One Person Birds
Many people will say that an African Grey is a one person bird. In our home, this is not true. Sparky loves my wife and me. He may favor my wife more but she is a mommy of the house and that happens in most human households until they realize mommy lays down the rules. This is a complete fallacy that African Greys are one person parrots. They will interact with anybody that interacts with them. They interact with you as a toddler would interact with a parent. Your African Grey is very rewarding and the reciprocation of love is never-ending.
In my opinion, there isn't anything a Grey won't eat when introduced. Sparky eats seed, pellets, fruits, veggies and yes our food. He loves bones may it be chicken or the bones from our steak. You need to take into consideration their calcium levels. Talk to your avian specialist as it is more complex than just feeding your Grey calcium enriched foods. They will recommend a wide variety of foods, a calcium/phosphorus supplement and/or pellets. It is imperative you speak with the doctor about it and not take it upon yourself.
Toys and Cage
These are the two most important things you have to think about when you have an African Grey. The cage needs to be the biggest you can afford. At a minimum, the cage needs to be 32 inches by 23 inches. Toys, toys, toys and more toys; you can never have enough toys for Greys. Change them out weekly. This is great for stimulation and keeping their busy minds occupied. Play music or put on the TV for them when you are out of the house, though I do warn you to be careful on the TV shows they choose. They may pick up something you don't want to be repeated. I like to put on cartoons. They are family friendly.
Does an African Grey mimic? Some say yes and some say no. I am one of those disagrees and would say no. Sparky can put sentences together from hearing my wife and I speak to each other. They can copy human voices; appliance sounds and puts a speech together with speaking in the 3rd person. In the wild Greys would mimic other bird calls and chainsaws. In our home, it is almost like a practical joke with his telephone ringing sound or if the phone rings he answers it and starts to have a conversation.
When your African screams as if they are dying when playing with a toy or swinging from a perch wildly you know you have a happy parrot. People wonder why Greys scratch at the bottom of their cage, there is no explanation. Sparky even scratches in the corner of the couch. I don't know if he is trying to dig a hole to China like any five years old or if he is searching for something, it is just unexplainable. Some people believe it is a sign that they want out of their cage contrary to believe they do it when they are out of the cage.
There are two Subspecies of the African Grey. There is the Congo that is larger, lighter gray, red tail and a black beak. Then there is the Timneh who is smaller in size, dark charcoal grey, maroon tail and horn-colored upper mandible. Of course, you have heard of the Cameroon, the ever elusive Cameroon. There is no such thing; it is just a way of getting you to pay more money. It is also called the Silverback or even the Ghana. It has not been scientifically proven of these other two subspecies. There are only subspecies and they are the Congo and Timneh African Grey. When we got Sparky we fell into the Cameroon trap but my wife would not pay the price they were asking. Some Congo's just happen to be larger than others.
African Greys are one of the most delightful animals one can come across and become companions with. The gratification you get will only grow as each day passes. There is so much to learn from these great creatures. They love to learn and we can show them how by being patient and understanding their needs. Your new addition is a five-year-old with the emotional needs of a two-year-old, only it is feathered. I love Sparky to the end and you will too, with your Grey.