African Grey Parrots – Challenging but Rewarding Pets
Though the colors of other parrot species are more spectacular, the intelligence of the African Grey makes it one of the most popular parrot species when it comes to choosing a pet bird. The African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is a medium-sized bird that is commonly found in rainforests in both West and Central Africa and it feeds mainly on nuts, fruits and leafy matter.
Most people do not realize that there are two subspecies of African Grey – the Congo and the Timneh. Both of these are predominantly grey in color, with a pale-grey bottom and a featherless rim of light grey to white skin around their eyes. The short feathers on their necks have paler margins and this makes the neck look scalloped. But this is where the similarities end. The Timnah has a dark maroon tail and a light upper mandible while the Congo has a black beak and a bright red tail. The Congo African Grey also has a sleeker appearance. The Congo African Grey is the more popular choice when it comes to choosing a pet parrot. Potential parrot traders do well to note that the trade of wild caught species is restricted to ensure the longevity of these magnificent birds.
What makes these birds so appealing is not their coloring, but their intelligence. The African Grey is generally regarded as being the most intelligent bird on our planet. Research indicates that captive African Greys are capable of associating a number of human words with their meanings to some extent – though some dispute these conclusions. There have been reports of certain individual birds having a vocabulary of about a thousand words and even having the capability to string these words together into often comprehensive sentences. Despite the debates that rage around the performance of these remarkable individuals, it is definitely clear that African Greys are amongst the most intelligent of bird species.
The idea of keeping these magnificent birds as pets is not a new one. It would seem that the earliest record of pet parrots is taken from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is also known that the Greeks and Romans kept pet parrots and that these were valued as pets of the wealthy – especially if they could talk. Indeed, they continued to be enjoyed as valued companions throughout history and King Henry VIII even had an African Grey. Most parrots found in the pet trade today are hand-reared by breeders. If you are considering buying a baby bird, you should pay careful attention to how their breeder chooses to raise them as their suitability as a pet will be greatly affected by this.
Many find that keeping a pet African Grey is a weighty but rewarding responsibility. These birds usually require quite a lot of personal attention and failure to see to their needs could result in behavioral problems. The bird will need plenty of interesting toys to keep it busy when its owner is unavailable. A suitably large cage will be needed for the bird and this will have to be cleaned regularly. While many still advocate the clipping of the bird’s wings, it would seem that research has shown that this generally has a detrimental effect on the bird’s health and it is not recommended. Bird owners will also need to be careful about what they feed their birds. African Greys need plenty of calcium and vitamin A and there are a number of foods – such as chocolate and avocado – which are potentially detrimental to the bird’s health. However, all these factors should not put you off owning one of these magnificent birds and some would argue that they make one of the best pets available.