African Greys are one of the oldest parrot species to be cared for by humans, with our companionship dating back as far as Biblical times. But as popular as these beautiful birds are with us, they are also a handful. Their high intelligence and demanding nature can make them one of the most challenging birds to take care of.
African Greys make brilliant companions for owners willing to give them the attention and stimulation they need to thrive. As highly-social creatures, they require hours of daily interaction and can be extremely sensitive to change, so they will not be appropriate for beginner bird-keepers. AG parrots become aggressive and loud if their needs are not met, so patience and routine are a must with this species.
Their love of talking and talent for mimicry certainly makes for a fun pet, but the daily reality of their complex care can be off-putting for some potential owners. If you’re interested in learning more about the African Grey, read on. We’ll look at everything from their cost and sleeping needs to their diet, and how they prefer to be handled.
How Long Do African Grey Parrots Live as Pets?
African Greys have an average lifespan of 40 to 60 years, but some have been known to live as long as 80 years old! For as long as owners live, this means a life-long commitment and friendship, but for many African Greys, it will mean being re-homed several times, which should be handled sensitively to reduce trauma.
Do African Greys Love Their Owners?
Yes, as naturally sociable creatures, African Greys love to develop affectionate bonds with their owners. There are two subspecies of African Grey, the Congo AG (CAG) and the smaller Timneh AG (TAG), so it’s important to distinguish the two before you think about owning one – TAG’s can tolerate a noisier household whereas COG’s display greater sensitivity when they have to ‘share’ their owner with others.
Do African Greys Like to be Handled?
Though African Greys can tolerate petting and head-scratching, they are not considered ‘cuddly’ birds and will not like too much close contact. Once they are ready to leave their perch and step onto your finger using the step-up command handling and petting will become easier.
How Much are African Grey Parrots?
As they are highly popular, African Greys can cost anywhere between $1,500-$3,500. The addition of food, cage, insurance, vet bills etc can cost an extra $3,200 per year.
Are African Greys Good for Beginners?
They are not recommended for beginner parrot-keepers since they require several hours of daily social interaction, and have a very sensitive temperament – much like human toddlers. So unless you can devote time to keeping them stimulated, they may be overwhelming as a first pet.
How Smart is an African Grey?
They are considered one of the brightest animals on the planet. African Greys have the intelligence and reasoning abilities of a toddler and are known to identify and categorize over 80 different objects. Research scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg worked with a Congo African Grey named Alex for 30 years and observed him recognizing shapes, colors, counting ability and even grasping the concepts of ‘same and different’.
Do African Grey Parrots Bite?
Yes, African Greys bite if they feel stressed or threatened, and you can usually predict bites by their body language, such as holding their beak open or closing their feathers tighter to their body. Biting is normally in response to being handled by an unfamiliar person or taken to new surroundings, and with persistence, they can be trained to stop.
Are African Greys Loud?
African Greys have a tendency to scream if they feel stressed or frightened by something or they may shriek out at you for food if you are late with their usual feeding time. Their talent for mimicry can also make them fairly loud pets, since they may imitate sounds in their environment such as phone rings and alert sounds.
Are African Grey Parrots Friendly?
Yes, though they tend to only be friendly with their owner. If they are socialized well from an early age and spend plenty of time outside their cage, they can become familiar with new faces and will tolerate petting from other family members, but their bond will be strongest with their owner.
Will an African Grey Fly Away?
Yes, they will fly away if they feel threatened or scared, but since they crave companionship, it’s likely they will come back to you. You can prevent this by having their wings clipped by a professional vet or groomer every 1-3 months following the start of their molt cycle.
Ensure your African Grey gets plenty of controlled flight time by taking it outside in the park wearing a harness. If your bird has flown away, place its cage outside and try calling to it early in the morning and at night.
Will African Grey Feathers Grow Back?
Yes, just as our hair grows back, a parrot’s feathers regrow after being plucked out and this usually takes around 12 months in total.
Will African Greys Bond with New Owners?
After an initial period of sensitivity to new surroundings, African Greys can learn to adapt to a different home and develop a bond with a new owner. Some exhibit signs of depression from missing their previous owner such as feather plucking and biting, but this transition can be eased if you continue to visit them.
Can You Potty Train an African Grey Parrot?
Yes, they can be trained to poop in a designated spot inside their cage or whilst on their perch and you can thankfully train them in as little as 72 hours with the right method. Observe how frequent their bowel movements are and take them to their designated spot using vocal praise such as “Good potty!” to reinforce the habit.
Do African Grey Parrots Talk?
Yes, this is perhaps the most well-known behavior of African Greys! Some have a 1,000-word vocabulary and by age 12 months, most African Greys will have reached full talking ability and can even understand the meaning of certain words.
Do African Greys Get Along with Other Birds?
African Greys can be territorial of their own cage and toys, so housing them with other birds is generally not a good idea. If they are bored or frustrated at the attention you show other birds in your home, they can display aggressive screaming and biting behavior. At around 13 inches tall on average, African Greys could also severely injure smaller birds if provoked, or even kill them.
Do African Grey Parrots Mate for Life?
They will stay with the same mate for multiple breeding seasons, but there is no indication that African Greys mate for life. Unlike many other bird species though, male African Greys take an equal role in feeding, grooming, and rearing their chicks long after they hatch.
Do African Grey Parrots Lay Eggs?
Yes, once they reach sexual maturity at around 3-5 years old, female African Greys can lay eggs around 2 times per year, typically laying a clutch of 3-4 eggs each time. In captivity, they can lay eggs without the need for a mate, but this can deplete them of their calcium, so help them maintain their strength with calcium toys and chews.
Do African Grey Parrots Molt?
Yes, they will normally experience their first ‘baby molt’ at around 8-11 months old, and will routinely molt once a year as adults. Once they reach 18 months, African Greys should have replaced all of their baby feathers with adult ones.
If molting becomes irregular or feather growth appears abnormal, this could be a sign of a poor diet or stress. Either way, it is always best to have your African Grey examined by a vet to determine the root cause for unusual molting patterns.
What Do African Grey Parrots Eat?
Their diet consists of fruit, veggies, pellets, nuts, and seeds, though seeds must make up no more than ¼ of their daily diet due to the high-fat content. A pelleted diet can form the basis of their daily feed as these provide a balance of the grains, vitamins, and nutrients they need. Bonus points if you feed them with foraging foods as these provide nutrition and a stimulating toy since they can pick, play and nibble their feed.
How Much Do African Grey Parrots Eat?
As they spend most of their day foraging, African Greys easily consume between ¼-½ of their body weight daily. In addition to feeding them a primary diet of ½ a cup of pellets each day, try to mix things up with bite-sized fruit and veggie portions such as bananas, broccoli, and oranges.
What Can African Greys Not Eat?
African Greys should avoid foods with high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt content such as chocolate, cake, and chips. The following foods should also be avoided as they are either toxic or harmful to their digestion:
- Raw meat or eggs
- Old leftovers or poorly stored food
- Raw beans
- Tomato plant leaves
What to Feed a Baby African Grey?
You can hand-feed them with a juvenile-specific parrot formula, but if they won’t accept that, you can try feeding most baby parrots with similar weaning food from a spoon or your hand containing cooked brown rice or a mixture of mashed carrots and potato.
Why is My African Grey Plucking His Feathers?
They are prone to feather plucking in response to stress, jealousy, boredom or when they are hungry. Keeping on top of their feeding routine and ensuring they spend enough time with you throughout the day can help to minimize feather plucking behavior.
When Do African Grey Parrots Sleep?
African Greys sleep at night and require around 10-12 hours in total to feel happy and refreshed. Provide them with a dark, restful sleep environment by using a partial cage covering to block out as much light as possible. If your bird appears stressed out by a covering, placing them in a separate sleep cage in the darkest room in your home may be best.
Difference Between Male and Female African Greys
Male African Greys are slightly larger than females, at around 14-16 inches compared with the slender females measuring 12-13 inches on average. Females also have longer necks, rounder heads, whilst males tend to have shorter necks and flatter, square-like heads.
Subtle differences can also be spotted in their wing coloring – the underside of a male African Grey’s wings are darker compared with the female. Females also have a rounder eye patch compared with a male’s pointy, almond-shaped patch.
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