Wild – 20-45 years
Captive – 60 years
Flying Fast Towards Extinction!
The African grey parrot is among the most intelligent bird species found on Earth. One individual has been trained to speak a wide variety of words and they often show an ability to solve puzzles and other challenges.
Unfortunately their intelligence is a key reason so many people seek this species out as a pet. This has fuelled a large illegal trade in the species which is often supplied through poaching of these birds through the forests which they inhabit in Africa.
What does an African Grey Parrot look like?
African grey parrots have grey feathers covering most of their body. Under the tail is a patch of red feathers. A circular patch is present around the eye and extending up to their beak which is bare of feathers and shows off the white skin. Their eyes are a pale yellow and the beak is coloured black.
Their foot features two claws facing forwards and two facing backwards to allow them to cling on to a perch. Each ends with a small claw.
Their body is approximately 33cms (13in) in length. Their wingspan is between 17.5-20cm (7-8in) across. African Grey Parrots weigh approximately 450g (15.9oz).
Males and females have a similar appearance. The males will darken in colour as they become older.
How does the African Grey Parrot survive in its habitat?
The black beak of the African grey parrot is large and strong. This is used to help them crush through the tough outer shells of seeds and nuts on which they are attempting to feed. It may also be useful to help them as they move through the trees.
What does an African Grey Parrot eat?
African grey parrots are herbivores which feed on a diet of seeds, nuts, fruits and berries. A particular favourite of this species is the oil palm fruit.
As commercial grain crops such as maize have been planted in Africa the grey parrots have been known to do damage to these crops.
Often these birds are observed in mud where they will eat some of the soil. It is believed that this bonds to toxins and pesticides in their body and allows them to safely pass through their digest tract.
Where do you the find the African Grey Parrot?
African grey parrots hail from Africa and inhabit countries including Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda.
Where can an African Grey Parrot survive?
They inhabit lowland tropical rainforests, mangrove and gallery forests as well as savannah woodland. With the increase in commercial farming they have been known to move into cultivated areas.
In the western areas of their range they have been observed to move out of the driest areas of their range during the dry season.
Each bird maintains a home range. This is typically large with each including a number of nesting and feeding sites which they will visit at regular intervals.
How does an African Grey Parrot produce its young?
African grey parrots have variable breeding seasons which differ across their range. Most often nesting has been observed during the dry season.
A pair will be monogamous, meaning they remain together for life.
They nest in a small tree hollow 10-30m off the ground. Bark and wood chips from the tree are used to line the nest. Nesting is usually done in solitary but may occur in a small group. Hornbills and other birds may compete with them for their nests. They have been observed to kill chicks and remove them from the nest before using it themselves.
They can have between 1-4 eggs per clutch. These are incubated for 21-30 days. Females complete all of the incubation duties while the male will bring him food. He will assist her in caring for the chicks once they have hatched.
Young fledge 80 days after hatching. Parents continue to care for them for another month after they leave the nest.
On occasion a pair will produce a second clutch of eggs within the same year.
Sexual maturity is achieved between 3 and 5 years old for this species.
What does the African Grey Parrot do during its day?
African grey parrots have been historically recorded living in groups of up to 10,000 individuals. These colonies will break down into smaller groups of 30 or so when they go out to feed and pairs will go off on their own to raise chicks.
These parrots will seasonally move out of the driest parts of their range.
This species is highly vocal producing a range of squeaks, squeals and whistles. These calls are learnt as chicks from the parents and as a result captive animals do not learn these calls but will instead learn a range of words and noises made by their parents. When introduced to new birds they have been shown to learn new calls from one another.
Their calls may be used in alarm to communicate to other members of their flock that danger is nearby. They also produce contact calls which serve to show other members of the flock where they are.
African grey parrots produce a powder which they will rub through their feathers to clean them.
They will fly great distances to find fruiting trees.
African grey parrots are active during the day.
Predators and Threats
What stops the African Grey Parrot from surviving and thriving?
Birds of prey are the main natural predator of the African grey parrot. Snakes will predate the eggs of these birds.
If threatened the African grey parrot will fluff up its feathers as a means of making themself look larger. Their bright coloured tail may also appear as
This species is a popular pet and a large trade exists to gather this species in the wild and traffic them globally to sell them. A significant number of birds involved in this trade will pass away before being sold. The increase in online platforms where trade can take place anonymously has unfortunately increased trade. Coupled with a lack of awareness of the illegal nature of wildlife trade in their range this species continues to face significant threats.
From 1975 till 2016 it is believed that more than 1.3 million individuals were exported.
Farmers also prosecute the species due to a perception that they are a pest. Small numbers are also taken for the bush meat trade.
The loss of large trees impacts their ability to breed as they require hollows which only form in mature trees. These are difficult to replace once removed due to the long time taken for them to develop. Overall habitat loss is also impacting the availability of food and habitat for them to survive more generally.
These animals may also be known as the Congo grey parrot.
African grey parrots have been kept as pets through much of history with records of captive individuals dating back to the Greek and Roman empires.
They can be trained to talk and one called Alex has learnt over 50 words.
Their scientific name, erithacus roughly translates as ”solitary bird which can be taught to speak”.
Until recently this species was considered a subspecies within a larger group of two species. They were split in to two subspecies which have both been elevated to two species. The second species is known as the Timneh grey parrot.
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