African Grey Parrot: Breed Profile & Care

African Grey Parrot

African gray parrots can do it all: they make excellent pets, mimic human speech, and with good training can understand hundreds of words and phrases. Some say that the African Grey Parrot has been kept as a pet for thousands of years – there are records of these birds as pets in biblical times.

This parrot is distinguished by its gray feathers and its strange talent for accurately imitating words and phrases. It can also understand human speech, which has helped catapult it to stardom in research circles and the pet trade.

Overview of the species

COMMON NAMES: gray parrot, African gray parrot, Congo gray parrot, African Congo gray parrot.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Psittacus erithacus.

ADULT SIZE: Measures about 13 inches and weighs slightly less than one pound.

LIFETIME: In captivity, averages 40 to 60 years.

Origin and History

The African Gray Parrot originates from the equatorial regions of Africa, particularly the following countries: Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The preferred habitat of the species is dense forests, but it is also commonly found along forest edges and in open savanna areas.


The first characteristic of these bird breeds is that they are very intelligent. Many of them become extremely gentle and affectionate toward their owners, and the species is known to be quite sociable.

However, a bored or neglected African Grey parrot is an unhappy bird. A depressed or angry bird will shout out its discontent.

A very intelligent bird is also a complex bird. Some of these birds tend to become “one-person birds,” even when owners do everything they can to socialize them with all family members.  

Speech and vocalizations

African Greys as pets grasp words and sounds very quickly. One African Gray even “whistled” a woman’s love story by repeatedly calling out the other man’s name in front of her husband, using the unfaithful woman’s voice.

Like toddlers, African gray parrots have a reputation for parroting everything they hear. It is therefore wise to pay attention to your language in the presence of these birds. Greys are capable of picking up and repeating any sounds they like, including squeaky doors, emergency vehicle bells, fire alarms, microwave alarms, and telephone rings. Owners must pay attention to what these birds hear – once a sound is learned, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the bird to “unlearn” it. 

The African Grayhead is not known for being a loud screamer. It may be suitable for homeowners living in apartments or condominiums, although neglected birds may cry out their displeasure at being ignored and become noisy.

Colors and characteristics of the African Grey Parrot

The African Gray Parrot, as its name suggests, wears mostly gray feathers, some of which are nicely edged with a fine pale fringe. There are two subspecies, the Congo gray and the Timneh gray. The Congo Greys are about one-third larger than the Timneh Greys. Congo Greys have glossy black bills and bright red tail feathers, while Tinmeh Greys have horn-colored mandibles and deep brown tail feathers.

You can tell males from females when the birds reach adolescence, which is at least 18 months of age. The tail of a male African Gray remains solid red, while the red tail feathers of a female end in a silver tip. The underside of the male’s wings darkens, while those of the female remains light. Other subtle differences between the sexes are that male has slimmer and narrower head, while females tend to have longer neck and broader and rounder head. If these differences are too subtle for you, you can get a definitive answer with a surgical sexing procedure or DNA testing.

Caring for an African Grey Parrot

The African Grey Parrot is a medium to large parrot that requires adequate living space. The minimum cage size should be 2 feet by 2 feet on the floor and 3 feet high. Larger cages are preferable. 

Without a lot of interaction and training, an African Grey Parrot can become depressed and engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as plucking its feathers. 

These birds do best when they have plenty of opportunities to play with toys, interact with their owners and learn words and tricks. Be prepared to spend several hours a day playing with and training your African Grey. Many owners report that African Greys enjoy listening to the television or radio when they are alone. 

African Greys are considered somewhat sensitive and react easily to stress and excitement. They can be more relaxed if the cage is placed in a quiet corner of the room and not in the middle. 

Common health problems

Greylag geese are prone to feather pecking, calcium deficiency, vitamin A and D deficiency, respiratory infections, psittacosis, and beak and feather diseases in parrots. 

Vitamin deficiency can be avoided by ensuring that the bird eats a wide variety of beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables, such as cooked sweet potatoes and fresh kale.

Feather pecking is usually a sign of a bored bird that is not getting enough mental stimulation, attention, or exercise. 

Diet and nutrition

In the wild, greylag geese eat fruit, leaves, insects, bark, and flowers. The best food for captive greylag geese is a high-quality pellet, enriched with fruits such as pomegranate, organic mango, and melon. Also feed fresh vegetables, including leafy greens like arugula, watercress, kale, and sprouts, and healthy seeds like hemp and flaxseed. You can make a bird salad that will help your gray parrot stay healthy and alert.

Many gray parrots also enjoy a variety of treats and snacks such as nuts and healthy foods like steamed green beans, breakfast toast, and salad.

Offer your bird a half-cup of pellet-based parrot mix and 1/4 cup of fruits and vegetables each day, adjusting the amount according to his appetite. At the end of each day, remove and discard anything that has not been eaten.


Adequate physical activity is essential for a grey parrot’s health. Grey parrots should spend at least 1 to 2 hours a day out of their cage and get vigorous exercise. Make sure they have plenty of bird-proof chew toys to exercise their powerful beaks.


  • Social, and friendly, although they do not like to be petted.
  • Intelligent, can talk, and understand some words.


  • Requires a lot of attention and mental stimulation
  • Tend to be a solitary bird, not the best family pet

Where buy an African Grey Parrot?

Contact a breeder near you and ask them to meet you with their animals to learn firsthand how these birds interact in a home environment. 

Breeders sell African Grey Parrots in the range of $2,000 to $4,000. Signs that you should avoid the breeder include confined living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or don’t seem to have much information about their birds. Rescue and adoption organizations and breeders from which you can find African gray parrots include the following:

  • The beauty of Birds Breeders List
  • Lonely Grey Rescue
  • Bird Breeders

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