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The African grey parrot is one of the most talented talking/ mimicking birds on the planet, giving it quite a reputation among bird enthusiasts. Not only do bird keepers love this intelligent bird, it’s one of the most recognizable species to bird novices as well — everyone knows the African grey parrot. This parrot is one of the oldest psitticine species kept by humans, with records of the bird dating back to biblical times. Understated beauty and a brainy no-nonsense attitude are what keep this parrot at the peak of popularity.
At first glance, the African grey is a medium-sized, dusty-looking gray bird, almost pigeon-like — but further investigation reveals a bright red tail, intelligent orange eyes, and a stunning scalloped pattern to its plumage.
There’s a reason why the African grey is often considered the poster bird for parrot intelligence — not only is this bird inclined to amass a large vocabulary, African greys also demonstrate an aptitude for recognizing the meaning of words and phrases.
African greys need plenty of toys that challenge their intelligence, such as foraging and puzzle toys. African greys seem especially affected by stress and commotion in their environment and can be put more at ease by placing one corner of the cage against a wall as opposed to in the middle of a room.
African grey parrots are more prone to deficiency in vitamin-A/beta-carotene, and therefore benefit from eating vegetables high in beta-carotene, such as cooked sweet potato and fresh kale. Vitamin-D deficiency is another concern, especially for greys on a poor diet. Offering a balanced, pelleted diet, such as Nutri-Berries, for the main diet of an African grey helps prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A grey that consumes a pelleted diet generally does not need vitamin supplements added to its food.
Most bird keepers believe that only an experienced bird enthusiast should keep a grey. They are complex parrots, highly sensitive, and more than a little demanding. They are also charming and brilliant, but this match of sensitivity and brains can lead to behavioral issues. They are creatures of habit, and even a small change in routine can make a sensitive grey unhappy. They are prone to plucking and chewing their feathers, among other bad habits. Anecdotally, the TAG has a hardier attitude and may be better for households with a lot of people coming and going. The CAG prefers a little less chaos.
African greys are social parrots that need a lot of hands-on time, however, they aren’t “cuddlebugs.” They will tolerate some head scratching and a little bit of petting, but they do not appreciate intense physical contact, though some individuals don’t mind a little snuggling. Every bird has individual tastes and preferences. A grey can also become a “one person bird,” even if every member of the household socializes with it from the beginning.
Much of the grey’s appeal comes from its talking ability. It is among the best talkers in the parrot family, able to repeat words and phrases after hearing them just once or twice. This bird reaches full talking ability around a year of age, and most individuals become capable mimics much earlier.
The African grey parrot’s ability to talk and mimic sounds makes this medium-sized parrot a captivating companion. African grey owners often report that their greys oftentimes talk in context and seem very attuned to their people’s emotions. The African grey parrot is not just a top talker — this bird is also known for its extreme intelligence, which gives them the moniker “The Einsteins of the Bird World.”