The Grey Roost

The Congo African Grey

Native Land:
The African Grey Parrot in general, comes from a broad area of Central Africa.


Common Name:
The Congo African Grey(P.e. Erithacus)being the nominate and most popular species. Other common names include: Congo, Cameroon, and Ghana. All the same species, but coming from different regions of Africa, and the ONLY difference in appearance would be slightly larger in size and lighter in color. Most aviculturists only recognize two subspecies of the AFRICAN GREY. the Congo and the Timneh. Size and description: Overall, The Congo African Grey Parrot is a medium grey bird with shades of light grey on the body. The feathers on the head have brushed white edging. The eye area is of bare white skin. A solid black beak and bright red tail are the finishing touches on this magnificent parrot. Young CAG's have dark grey tips on their tail feathers. They vary in from 12-14" from beak to tail, also can vary in weight between 400-650 grams depending on the frame of the individual bird.

Greys from the Nigeria region usually have dark grey wings. CAG's from the Congo region are, on average, larger in size. On occasion you might see a Grey with red feathering throughout the body - they are known as "Red Factor Greys" , or "King Congo Greys". Myth and legends include ones of the King Congo Parrot having supernatural powers because of them wearing their red feathers in other places on their bodies. They were treated with the up most respect and were worshiped as god like creatures.

A baby parrot will have dark grey to black eyes up until they are roughly 6 months of age when their eye color starts to lighten. By the time they reach a year, their eyes become a pale grey color. At about 1.5 to 2 yrs their eyes will turn a pale straw color. Lastly at about 3-4 years of age, they will have a light yellow iris. This is one way to be able to determine an estimate of how old a bird is.A Young Congo will also have dark grey tips on their tail feathers. This will change with their first molt.

Life expectancy:
An African Grey's can have a lifespan of 50-70 years. Unfortunately, due to human neglect, and lack of knowledge, most do not reach half of their life expectancy.

Intellectual capacity:
African Grey's have the intellectual capacity of a 5 year old child with the emotions of a 2 year old. Because of this higher intelligence, they can be demanding pets and rightly so. They require constant attention along with a stimulating environment that includes various types of toys, a large cage, and play-stands.

Sociability : Varies from bird to bird. Generally speaking, Greys are cautious birds. They have a tendency to sit back and watch you before giving themselves up freely. They tend to not be very outgoing towards strangers. Then are very intuitive to your feelings and it is always best to approach them with a calm demeanor. They are very dedicated and loyal birds.

Talking ability: EXCELLENT All African Greys have the potential to speak and imitate, not only human, but all manner of sounds and whistles. However, not all Greys speak well or at all.There’s no way to say who will talk and who won’t. However, most Greys do talk, starting after their first year of age, and learn new things throughout their lives. Sex does not appear to to be a factor in regards to speaking ability.

Noise level:
Overall, The African Grey Parrot is a noisy species. Usually not suitable for apartment living. Again, each is an individual. It is hard to lump them all together. As babies they tend to imitate sounds, and make a lot of screeching noises. As they mature, the screech evolves into speech, and audible sounds. They tend to be shy and closet talkers at first. As they become accustomed to their surroundings and the people they see, they will eventually talk more, and not be so shy.

Depending on you location in the world, they can vary in the United States from about $700 from a breeder, and up to $1500.00 in a pet store. In Australia they seem to be the most expensive, costing up to $11,000.00 !(So I've been told)

Health concerns:
Aspergillosis-PDD-Psittacosis-Polyoma- New Castle disesase- Beak and Feather are all known to strike these wonderful creatures. Caution and Prevention are urged. Aspergillosis is high among Greys and Amazons due to the large intake of air with their playful nature and talking abilities. Seek professional help with any labored breathing in this species.

Low Calcuim Levels:
Calcium plays a role in blood coagulation, maintains normal heart rhythm, transmits nerve impulses, calcifies egg shells, contracts the uterus during egg laying, and activates several enzyme systems. Seizures, as well as leg paralysis, have been associated with low blood calcium. Sudden collapse or fainting is characteristic of advanced calcium deficiency in Greys. Of all the species, Greys are most likely to suffer seizures from low blood calcium. Be very careful with calcium supplements. Indiscriminate and excessive use of these supplements is dangerous and could become life threatening. The only time a calcium supplement should be given to a companion bird is after an abnormally low blood level is diagnosed and an avian vet prescribes supplementation. The best way to prevent problems is to have a blood calcium level test done at the annual exam and to take your bird to the vet immediately at the first sign of illness. It is very important that a blood calcium test be performed at each annual exam, since calcium levels can change over time. Young birds will typically have a lower concentration than older companion birds.

Behavioral problems:
Feather Picking seems to be a problem with these highly emotional, and intelligent creatures. IT NOT caused by any one problem, but can linked to the simplest of things like new toys or curtains in their room. As the "Parront" you must find out the problem and try to solve it prior to it becoming a habit. Again, seek medical help fist to see if there may be an underlying condition causing the picking. Once tests come back clear, it is time to asses the birds surroundings and changes.

Cage size:
For babies you need to have a smaller cage since they are very clumsy, and need to be taught how to perch. It is often suggested that you line the bottom of the cages with towels and move the perches just inches off the bottom. When they become more self assured, and stable, it is recommended that you get a big cage, with bar spacing not exceeding 1 inch. Round cages and corner cages are not good for this species because they can easily bend the bars, and this could cause injury or death. Also, metal cage skirts are not suggested for this species because of thier clumsy nature.

Each bird is different, but a large selection should be offered. They will pick what they want and ignore what they don't want. More times then not, a Grey will be frightened to a new toy, and it should be introduced gradually by first moving it into the birds sight, then near the cage, and then in the cage. If the Grey does not like the toy, remove it instead of thinking the bird will get used to it. Leaving this scary toy will most likely result in one or more of the topics that have been discussed in this profile. Should you choose to clip wings: Since African Greys are heavy birds, clipping too many feathers can severely impair flight and may lead to injuries as they may have a tendency to crash to the ground. If very young birds are wing clipped they may never gain full coordination and agility in flight. Finally, feather clipping should never be attempted by those inexperienced at it, as serious injury could result.

Last but not least:
Remember to love your Congo African Grey more for its beauty, then for the possibilities it possesses. Some Greys will not talk, some will pluck. ALL of them need love.

Books • "The Grey Parrot" by Wolfgang de Grahl, T.F.H. Publications, 5th edition, 1987 • "African Gray Parrots" by Annette Wolter, Barron's, First English edition, 1987 • "African Grey Parrots" by Paul R. Paradise, T.F.H. Publications, 1979 • "Guide to a Well-behaved Parrot" by Mattie Sue Athan, Barron's, 1993 • "Parrots of the World" by Joseph M. Forshaw, T.F.H. Publications, 1973


American Cage-Bird Magazine
Feature articles on African Greys:
Sept. 1987
Feb. 1989
April 1990
June 1990
January 1991
December 1991
January 1992
Other articles:
January 1993 pg. 66-68
May 1993 pg. 71-78
Bird Talk Magazine
Feature articles on African Greys:
March 1988
July 1989
Sept. 1993
Other articles:
August 1988 pgs. 93 -96
October 1988 pg. 12, pgs. 114 - 117
January 1990 pg. 14 - 16, pgs. 115 - 122
July 1990 pg. 119
February 1994 pg. 22, pgs. 46 - 50
"The Grey Play Round Table" - a newsletter dedicated to Greys
For subscription information, please write:

The Grey Play Round Table
FDR Station
PO BOX 1744
New York, NY 10150-1744
FAX (212) 888-1784
"The African Ark" - newsletter of the African Parrot Society
Another good source for breeders/sellers. A good mixture of breeder and companion bird articles.
Editor: Randy Karg
P.O. Box 204
Clarinda, IA 51632-2731

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In Memory of Sampson Bell