African Grey Parrot

African Grey Parrot

Grey parrot, Congo grey parrot, Congo African grey parrot

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Tribe
Genus
SPECIES
Psittacus erithacus
Population size
560,000-12M
Life Span
23-60 yrs
WEIGHT
400-490 g
LENGTH
25-36 cm
WINGSPAN
46-52 cm

The African grey parrot is one of the largest parrots in Africa. It is predominantly grey in color and has darker grey than its body over the head and both wings. The head and body feathers have slight white edges. Its tail feathers are red. The coloration of juveniles is similar to that of adults; however, their eyes are dark grey to black, in comparison to the yellow irises around dark eyes of the adult birds, and their undertail coverts are tinged with grey.

Distribution

African grey parrots are native to equatorial Africa, including Angola, Cameroon, the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. They are found inside a range from Kenya to the eastern part of the Ivory Coast. These birds favor dense forests, but can also be found at forest edges, mangrove forest, and in more open vegetation types, such as gallery and savanna forests. They can also visit cultivated areas and even gardens.

African Grey Parrot habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

African grey parrots are gregarious and very noisy birds especially at night when they gather in large flocks to sleep together in tall trees. During the day, they prefer to spend time in smaller groups and fly long distances to forage. African grey parrots feed mainly in the canopy climbing from one branch to another but may also take clay and mineral soil on the ground. These birds communicate with each other using high-pitched screams and whistles. They also use contact calls, which allow them to interact with their flock mates and communicate information about their location, detection of predators, availability of food, and safety status. In addition, contact calls are used to form strong social bonds with their flock mates.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

African grey parrots are herbivores (frugivores, granivores) and most of their diet consists of fruit, nuts, and seeds. They prefer oil palm fruit and will also supplement their diet with flowers and tree bark, as well as insects and snails.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
INCUBATION PERIOD
30 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
2-3 years
FEMALE NAME
hen
MALE NAME
cock
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
3-5 eggs

African grey parrots are monogamous and have lifelong pair bonds. They breed in loose colonies but each pair needs their own tree for nesting. Nests are located in tree cavities where the female lays 3 to 5 eggs. She incubates them for 30 days while being fed by her mate. Both parents defend their nesting sites and help take care of the chicks until they can go off on their own. The young leave the nest at the age of 12 weeks and become completely independent from their parents at 2-3 years of age. Reproductive maturity is reached when they are 3 to 5 years old.

Population

Population threats

African grey parrots are the most popular avian pets and are suffering from the international pet trade. Between 1994 and 2003, more than 359,000 grey parrots were traded on the international market. Approximately 21% of the wild population was being harvested every year. These beautiful birds are also hunted for their meat and for their parts, which are used in traditional medicines. As a result of the extensive harvest of wild birds, in addition to habitat loss, African grey parrots are believed to be undergoing a rapid decline in the wild and therefore, have been rated as endangered.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total African grey parrot population size is around 560,000-12.7 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Feeding upon a wide variety of tree fruits, African grey parrots play a very important role in dispersing seeds of these fruits, thus sustaining many tree species.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • African grey parrots are very smart birds. Living in the wild tropics they must learn a complex of skills. They need to learn how to differ edible food plants from toxic and how to find safe water, how to defend territory, how to avoid predators, and how to find their families if they were separated.
  • Historically, African grey parrots could gather in large roosts containing up to 10,000 individuals!
  • African grey parrots are very popular as pets and regularly kept by humans as a companion parrot, prized for its ability to mimic human speech.
  • Wild African grey parrots may also imitate a wide variety of the sounds they hear, much like their captive relatives. Two greys were recorded while roosting in Zaire and researchers reported that they had a repertoire of over 200 different sounds, including nine imitations of other wild bird songs and one of a bat.
  • African grey parrots are highly intelligent and are considered by many to be one of the most intelligent species of psittacines. The American scientist Irene Pepperberg's work with Alex the parrot showed his ability to learn more than 100 words, differentiating between objects, colors, materials, and shapes!
  • African grey parrots are also very generous and caring birds. They will gladly share a nut with their partner, even if it meant that they would not be able to get one themselves.

References

1. African Grey Parrot on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_parrot
2. African Grey Parrot on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22724813/129879439

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