African Grey Parrot, also known Congo African Grey.
The African Grey Parrot has been cherished pet in Europe since the reign of Henry VIII during the sixteenth century, and possibly even earlier than this time. This genus has 3 subspecies ,one now thought to be extinct.The other two are well known and readily available in the USA. The small sub species P. e. timneh known as the Timneh African Grey Parrot is smaller and darker in appearance than the nominate form and has a horn colored top mandible and maroon colored tail.
The origins of the Timneh Grey is concentrated in the western coastal regions of Guinea, Ghana and the Ivory Coast of Africa. The nominate form P. e. erithacus is better known by several so called market names such as Red Tail Grey, Congo African Grey, Cameroon African grey and Ghana or West African Grey. These labels have created a very confused public for many many years. These names are were normally used by many trappers, exporters and importers to identify the African geographical origin of a particular bird’s ancestry, such as;
CONGO AFRICAN GREY: from the Central African Congo Republic and other central regions of Africa. Timneh AFRICAN GREY: from the Cameroon region of Africa also central Africa.
WEST AFRICAN GREY or GHANA GREY: from GHANA or the more western regions of Africa such as the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Some less informed breeders and many bird dealers try to attach these names to their birds describing certain size or color variations, such as, one breeder told me that he has a pair of Cameroon African Greys he would like to sell to me. I asked him how did he know these birds origin? How did he know they came from CAMEROON Africa, He replied with ” Oh, I don’t know where they came from, but they are large and silver ” therefore they are Cameroon African Greys or so he was told by a dealer that sold them to him. Some dealers knew that by attaching these names they could demand higher prices from the unknowing public. In the mid eighties during the heyday of U.S. bird importation, I had several business deals and conversations with several large well known U.S. African Grey importers. These importers said there was no way of anyone ever actually knowing what african region a shipment of African Greys actually were trapped. In fact most shipments contained many birds from several regions.
Native AFRICAN trappers could travel large distances and from different regions to sell their birds to exporters and buyers and most of the time would have birds from several different regions. In a single shipment of 500 or more greys there would be many color variations and sizes. It was common practice for importers to separate the color variations and sizes into groups, and attach names such as Cameroon, Congos, and Ghana’s without ever knowing if these birds were actually trapped in these regions. But by attaching these so called names they got more money from even so called experts. There is a variance in size and color of African Greys throughout Africa, starting from West to East is the darker and smaller to the light silver and larger birds being found more to the East and central regions.But these are not different species but only geo variations and differences due to environmental circumstances and evolution of that group of birds in that location. Some experts believe that diet and evolution can have the most effect on size and color. One theory is, since larger high mineral deposits and unlimited abundant food sources are likely to occur in the more central dense forest regions, over many many years these birds would have evolved slightly larger and have less melanin in the feathers creating a lighter silver look.
Joseph Forshaw the reknown author of Parrots of The World book, he states that quartz and many other high minerals and very high nutient rich particles was found in the intestinal tract of birds trapped in Central African regions. However the Birds found in the western regions contained very little or none of these high nutrient type particles and noted food sources are more scarce in that region. These western birds would be of course smaller and darker than the birds in the east. Are they a different species?, absolutely not. Should any of these geographically separated birds be labeled Ghana, Western, Cameroon,congo or whatever? No. These same birds colors may change or morph to some degree when the diet is corrected and more abundant. As we have researched and proved on our farm sometime ago.When we starting collecting breeding stock in late 70’s early 80’s, many years ago we noticed some birds that first appeared darker and these birds were labeled as west african greys (Ghanas). These birds over time, several years, become more silver in color once the diet was corrected, therefore the above theory may have some merit. and babies produced from them were more silver and larger than the original dark parents.As we set up some of these slightly smaller darker colored birds for breeding and started producing babies, we noticed that our babies from these pairs were much larger and very silver compared to the parents. Some of our other adult pairs of African greys that were very large and silver now they also produced large and some smaller babies, also produced darker and some silver. We feel that diet has more to do with color and size than anything else. Also its just plain genetics as in humans some are larger in the same family and different sizes and shapes in the same group of siblings, its just nature, all are not the same size or color, what a boring world this would be if everything was the same and predictable.Since all of the babies now produced in the U.S. are offspring of these original imports or from first generation, second generation or even third generation breeder birds, there is absolutely NO way for anyone to label a bird with the correct origin based name such as Cameroon, Congo etc. So be wary of these guys that are trying to convince you of they have special species of african grey, cameroon or whatever.
So do not be fooled by this practice by dealers and breeders that state they have something special such as large silver Cameroon, Congo, etc. these people really do not know what they are talking about. We breed the one nominate species of Grey Parrot. The nominate species, we call the Red Tail Grey for obvious reasons. For simplicity reasons and to keep us from having to explain to every single customer about the origins, we just say congo, as that is on everyones tongue. In this species there are many different sizes and color variations, but do we know for sure that a certain bird ancestry originated from a certain region in Africa? No. Does anyone else know?, absolutely not. What difference does it really make? Red Tail African Grey is Red Tail African Grey. smaller, larger,silver or not so silver.keeping mind that actually most silver birds are most likely females and they would be normally smaller in most cases.African Greys are one of the most talked about species of parrots. They are well known for talking ability and their intelligence. Since 1982 we have bred and reared several 100’s of greys with all being almost the same in one aspect of personality, males and females, that is they are timid and somewhat shy around strangers as a general rule. Greys growl as a way of defense. One should move slowly around greys. many handfed baby and young greys will pinch and distrust fingers when offered to them. They will retreat to the back of the cage and growl and make other defense noises and actions.
African Greys do not take well to change once they have adapted to an environment, changes should be done over time as not to stress them out in a household. Many will scream, growl and flutter around strangers or new toys. You just have to take it easy until they get use to you. They are African greys and NOT like other species, they are unique in their behavior. If you ever heard the expression about dog or cat owners, people will say well they are not a cat person or he or she is not a dog person, well its very much the same here. I, Mike Richard,RBC Director, I am not a grey person, I love all amazon species and the Yellow Naped Amazons are one of my favorites. everyone has their unique species for their unique personality.If you want to own african grey parrots you must be able to adapt to their behavior, as they may not adapt to yours. UNIQUE.There are exceptions to this I do understand as we have seen some that were not the normal acting grey in nature.. The normal being timid and shy around strangers. But with all said and done African Greys are one of the highly regarded talking species of all parrots. Almost all become a prized addition to anyones family.
Most all our handfed babies are very sweet and get very attached to their owners. I think one thing that amazes most people about greys is they can mimic and sound just like a certain voice. I have heard some sound like women and men, some can sound like an old mans voice and so much more. BUT, please do not think that is all there is to an african grey is just the talking, infact do not purchase any bird just for talking ability, its just not fair when people purchase a bird(any bird) and then may be disappointed in the bird as it may not live up to their wants or expectations and then they just give up and get rid of it and then try something else, its just not fair to these creatures, they should be life long companions, accept the good with the bad, as with humans, these birds are not throw away pets.African Greys are one of the best mimics around. Most greys take some time to develop their talents, some taking a couple years to really get going with their talking. Many new African Grey owners are disappointed when they get a grey and then it just does not talk right away. They must have time. GO slow around greys as they are not like other species of parrots. Many Greys are shy around strangers and refuse to talk around strangers, but when the strangers leave, they start up. One thing that most people must understand is that the reputation of the african grey parrot’s talking ability has been grossly exaggerated in many instances over the years. Some just do not live up to their reputation. every bird is different as with people.But I will give the credit where credit is due, Most African Grey parrots do make one of the finest talkers ever with the proper training and given time.
They make a good bird for the beginner or long term bird owners, However this species may not be for everyone but once the person accepts and understand the common personality and characteristics of this species and what to expect they make great addition to the home as part of the family. African greys are a nervous bird by nature, and the owner must accept the negatives along with the positives. I must say this, do not be disappointed if your Grey does not perform like those birds you see on TV or read about on the internet, or what you hear from a friend that once owned or still own one,as many of those birds just may not exist and some just may be unique, or those special birds are highly trained and most household pets just do not get that kind of training. Love your bird and enjoy it for what it is. Excellent talker or not, performing or not, you should still love your bird. One other thing we are often ask, female or male, which one is better?, well, i ask this, with your own children, which one is better? ,son or daughter, you see how silly this question is. Females and male are identical in capacity of talking, learning, attitude or personality. Its all in the bird, not the sex of the bird, but it takes years before the true personality will emerge, so buying young and babies is always the way to go, but always know that you will not be able to predict what will happen later, as with people, they can change as time goes on. What is nice in the start can change, some babies that are not really looked on as good personality many times will and most times will change into some of the best birds one could ask for, Its really all up to you, how they are treated makes difference. In homes where dogs and loud screaming children, MAYBE not the best start for african greys. We hear many opinions on male or females, and that is what that is, experiences and opinions, and we all know what they say about opinions.
In one persons eyes their bird may be the best bird they have seen, and it may be male, or female, that is their experience. and the next person tells a different tale, and their experience is one way or the other, so, yes males and females make equally good birds, but not all birds make good birds. One must accept the bird for what it is, a living, thinking creature with its own way, and attitudes, you cannot just have a list of what you want in a bird and what you do not like in a bird and then actually think you will ever find that.and if you do not get what you wanted in the bird you purchase,you cannot just get rid of it and start again, unlike a goldfish or hamster, where you get rid of it and get another one if it does not suit you. If anyone tells you that a certain species or sex of a bird is exactly what you need, they are trying to sell you something, or they just know nothing at all about african greys or parrots.The African grey has been cherished as one of the best talking species of parrots for hundreds of years. Accept them for what they are. Never purchase a parrot with talking as the main objective. They are much more than that. These birds are highly affectionate and intelligent creatures sometimes acting like small children.