A Congo African Grey Parrot in Herborn Bird Park, Germany.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The African Grey is a wonderful, sensitive and highly intelligent bird. They require diligent owners and are a serious commitment. However, they are truly delightful and if approached with the correct understanding will make a lifelong companion.
Originating from Africa, there are two distinct types: the Congo African Grey and the Timneh African Grey. The Congo is the larger of the two, measuring 12-14 inches with a bright red tail. The Timneh is smaller, closer to 11-13 inches with a darker coloring and crimson tail. The Congo and the Timneh originate in different regions of Africa.
These highly intelligent parrots became famous from the cognitive studies of Dr. Irene Pepperberg. Dr. Pepperberg worked "Alex", a Congo African Grey. Alex was able to recognize and name more than 100 objects. He could label colors and count. Dr. Pepperberg worked with Alex for over 30 years. It is suggested these beautiful birds have the intelligence of a 5-year-old child. They are sensitive and emotional, resembling the emotions of a 2-year-old child. They require mental stimulation as a 5-year-old child would. If bored or depressed they can be prone to feather plucking. In general, they are anxious and cautious in new situations.
They have a superior ability to mimic humans, often in the person's voice. Usually, they will start speaking after 1 year of age and can often learn several new words weekly. They form strong attachments to their human "flock" and often have favorites. They have been said to be less cuddly than other species, yet loving and loyal. They are the professors of the bird flock and require as much attention as other species.
They enjoy games that require mental stimulation such as foraging for "hidden treasures" of toys and treats. If one chooses to home an African Grey, socialization of people and new surroundings, mental activities and emotional nurturing is very important. They cannot sit quietly in a cage, as one would not ask a 5-year-old child to. But the rewards of the Grey are immense. They are very "human-like" and very special.
African Greys have a lifespan of approximately 60 years and require a serious commitment due to their highly intelligent and sensitive nature. Hardy birds, they require a balanced diet supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. If making a commitment to an African Grey, it is highly suggested to annually visit an avian vet for complete check-ups, nutritional guidance, and blood work. Birds by nature will hide illnesses for a long time. Often once the illness is suspected it is too late.