African Grey Parrots: Ultimate Guide to Care & Understanding

African Grey Parrots are infamous for their intelligence and impressive mimicry skills, making them uniquely challenging pets. Whether you want to welcome one into your home or seek to deepen your understanding of these fascinating birds, we are here to help!

This ultimate African Grey Parrot guide will provide valuable insights into their behavior, care, and communication. Studying these birds will ensure you are well-equipped with the knowledge you need to bond with and care for your feathered companion.

Origins and Characteristics

Historical Background

African Grey Parrots originate from the rainforests of West and Central Africa. They have been kept as companions by people for thousands of years.

Fondly called the “Einstein of parrots,” these intelligent birds are known to be highly skilled at mimicking human speech and understanding complex tasks.

Nowadays, it’s essential to adopt an African grey that needs a home rather than buying one. Since African Greys have a long lifespan, plenty of birds are available that outlive their humans.

African Grey Parrots_ what you need to know

Physical Features

Your African Grey Parrot is a medium-sized bird, standing around 12 to 14 inches tall and weighing between 400 and 600 grams.

The signature grey plumage is smooth with a striking contrasting red tail. It’s important to remember that Greys are considered dusty birds and not good pets if you have allergies.  

An African grey’s eyes start dark gray but will turn pale yellow as your bird ages, giving them a unique and captivating look.

Personality Traits

These parrots are known for their intelligence, sociability, and affectionate nature. Since they are one of the birds that can talk, they require special treatment.

With the proper interaction and care, your African Grey Parrot can form strong bonds with you, often becoming a beloved family member. 

They are known to be curious, playful, and sometimes mischievous. With your patient training, these birds can learn various tricks and commands, besides their impressive ability to mimic human speech and sounds.

Remember to socialize your parrot regularly to nurture its friendly and gentle demeanor. However, African Greys can be sensitive and prone to stress. Creating a safe, calm, and stimulating environment is essential to keep your bird happy and healthy.

Learn more about how to get an African Grey to like you here.

Timnehs VS Congos – African Grey Parrots

Timneh African Grey VS Congo African Grey

When it comes to African Grey parrots, there are two main subspecies: Timneh African Greys and Congo African GreysCongo vs Timneh African Grey: While both are intelligent and can get along with people, there are some noticeable differences between the two. 

Let’s dive into the main distinctions to help you understand these beautiful parrots.

The first noticeable difference between these two subspecies lies in their physical appearance. Congo African Greys tend to be larger, with a full-grown adult reaching up to 14 inches in length. 

On the other hand, Timneh African Greys are slightly smaller, growing to about 11-13 inches long. 

Regarding plumage, Congo Greys have stunning bright red tail feathers, while Timnehs have a darker maroon color on their tails.

Congo African Grey Parrots:

  • Length: 14 inches
  • Tail color: Bright red

Timneh African Grey Parrots:

  • Length: 10-12 inches
  • Tail color: Dark maroon

Another key difference is their beak color. Timnehs have a dark upper beak with a light horn-colored tip, while Congos possess an entirely black beak. Both species have beautiful grey feathers, but Timnehs generally have a darker, charcoal hue than the lighter, silvery-grey Congos.

While both species are known for their incredible intelligence and speaking ability, there are slight differences in temperament. Generally, Timneh African Greys are more laid-back, easier to handle, and more adaptable to environmental changes. 

Congo African Greys are equally intelligent but can be more sensitive and reserved. Therefore, this may require more patience and consistency in their interactions.

Socialization and mental stimulation are essential for both African Greys; however, please remember that each bird has a unique personality. Spending time with your parrot is critical to forming a strong bond, understanding its needs, and ensuring its happiness and growth.

In conclusion, whether you bring home a Timneh or Congo African Grey, understanding their differences will help you provide the best care for them. By choosing the bird that best suits your lifestyle and providing proper care, you will have a fantastic companion to share your home with.

Behavior – African Grey Parrots

High Intelligence 

African Greys are known for their intelligence and ability to learn quickly. They have the cognitive ability to understand and use language, solve problems, and even exhibit empathy.

Vocal Mimicry 

African Greys are excellent mimics and can learn to imitate various sounds, including human speech. 

They can learn to speak words and phrases with outstanding clarity and accuracy. However, it’s imperative to mention that African Greys are loud birds; if noise bothers you, this is not the right companion.

Strong Bonds 

Since African Greys are social birds and form strong bonds with their owners, if you are not home a lot, this is not the proper companion pet for you. They crave attention and interaction and can become quite attached to their human companions. 

Playful Nature 

African Greys are playful birds and enjoy toys and games. They have a curious nature and love to explore their environment. Furthermore, an African grey biting you is possible if you live with one long enough. 

African grey parrots need a lot of toys and stimulation


Did you know that African Greys are sensitive birds and can become stressed or anxious if they feel threatened or uncomfortable? They require a calm and stable environment to thrive.


African Greys are independent birds and can be pretty stubborn at times. They require a patient and consistent approach to training and behavior modification.

Feather Plucking

In some cases, African Greys are prone to feather plucking, which can signify stress or anxiety. It is crucial to quickly identify and address the root cause to prevent further harm. However, remember that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is causing the bird to pluck.

Proper Housing for African Grey Parrots

Cage Selection

When selecting a cage for your African Grey, choose one that is roomy and sturdy. Your parrot should have enough space to spread its wings, comfortably hop around, and still have room for toys and perches. 

A suitable cage size for an African Grey would be no smaller than 36″ wide, 24″ deep, and 48″ tall. Although the bigger you go, the better! Opt for horizontal bars as they promote climbing, and ensure the bar spacing is around 3/4″ – 1″ to prevent potential injuries.

If you frequently travel with your bird, we have a comprehensive review guide on bird travel cages!

Material: Get a non-toxic, stainless steel or powder-coated iron cage to prevent rust. Avoid painted surfaces, which can chip and lead to toxic ingestion.

Cage Placement for African Grey Parrots

Where you place your parrot’s cage in your home is also crucial. Locate the cage in a bright, lively area with enough social interaction for your African Grey. 

However, avoid direct sunlight or areas with drafts, excessive noise, or extreme temperature fluctuations.

  • Noise: African Greys are sensitive to noise, so keeping their environment relatively peaceful is essential. Learn more about this topic in our article “Can birds sleep with noise?”

  • Heat/Cold: Ensure the room is adequately temperature-controlled, with 40-60% humidity.

  • Elevation: Elevate the cage so that the highest perch is at about eye level with you, which helps your parrot feel more secure.

Cage Accessories for African Grey Parrots

Equip your African Grey’s cage with a variety of perchestoys, and feeding dishes:


  • Use different materials (wood, rope, natural branches) and sizes (1″ – 1.5″ diameter) to prevent foot issues.
  • Arrange perches in a way that encourages movement and exercise.

Toys for African Greys:

  • Provide an assortment of toys (foraging, puzzle, chew, or preening toys) to keep your parrot engaged and stimulated.

  • Rotate the toys every few weeks to prevent boredom. 

African grey parrots need a lot of toys and stimulation

Feeding dishes:

  • Place separate containers for pellets, vegetables, and water. Change these out multiple times per day to prevent bacteria growth.

  • Use stainless steel, ceramic, or glass dishes, and avoid plastic because they tend to harbor bacteria.

Bottom of Cage:

Providing your African Grey Parrot with proper housing and essential accessories will create a comfortable and engaging environment to help it thrive.

African Grey Lifespan

African Grey Parrots are known for their long lifespans, which can span 50 to 70 years – and sometimes even longer, with proper care. As a pet owner, you must understand their needs to provide them with a comfortable, enriching, and healthy environment that promotes long life.

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is essential for any bird, especially African Grey Parrots. Provide your parrot with a fresh mixture of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and proteins to ensure they get the necessary vitamins and minerals. Additionally, give your bird plenty of fresh water daily and limit their access to sugary and fatty foods.

To begin with, ensure your African Grey has a balanced diet; learn all you can about the African Grey diet. High-quality pellets should comprise around 70-80% of their daily food intake. 

Supplement this with fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding toxic foods like avocado, salt, chocolate, or alcohol. Maintaining a proper diet, plus learning about the best parrot pellets, will help your bird stay healthy. Additionally, a healthy African Grey is more likely to live longer.

Social Interaction

African Greys thrive on social interaction, so spending quality time with your bird is essential. Daily conversations, interaction with toys, or even teaching them tricks are ways to bond with and stimulate your parrot.

African grey Parrots 101_ how to care for these birds

Daily Routines

Remember that they’re sensitive to changes in routine, so try to stick to a consistent daily schedule. Remember that a mentally stimulated African Grey will be happier – and, as a result, potentially live longer.


Regular exercise is another crucial component of your African Grey’s overall health. It is essential to provide them with a spacious cage that allows them to stretch their wings and move about freely. 

Allowing your bird to explore and fly outside its cage (under supervision) will also encourage exercise and build trust between you.

Veterinary Checkups

Last but not least, take your African Grey parrot for regular checkups with an avian veterinarian. Even if they seem perfectly happy and healthy, having an expert ensure they’re in optimal condition is a good idea. 

Like this article? Check out these other fun parrot facts for kids!

African Grey Parrot at the vet

Furthermore, the vet can advise keeping your bird healthy, maximizing its chances of a long and fulfilling life with you.

By recognizing the importance of diet, social interaction, exercise, and regular vet visits, you’re well on your way to providing your African Grey with a long, healthy, and happy life.

Diet and Nutrition

Types of Food

African Grey Parrots enjoy a mix of food items in their diet. To keep your parrot healthy, include the following:

  • Pelleted diet: A high-quality pellet is essential for balanced nutrition. Aim for 60-70% of your parrot’s diet.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Fresh produce should comprise about 20-30% of the diet. Try offering colorful, diced fruits and leafy greens.

  • Seeds and nuts: Though high in fat, they can be offered as occasional treats, making up to 10% of the diet.

Avoid giving your African Grey chocolate, alcohol, avocado, or caffeine, as these items are toxic to them.

Feeding Schedule

An African Grey appreciates a routine when it comes to feeding. Follow these guidelines:

  • Serve meals twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.

  • Add in Snacks throughout the day
  • Remove uneaten food after a couple of hours to prevent spoilage.

Try to offer a variety of food items at each meal to stimulate their curiosity and appetite.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

A balanced diet ensures your African Grey receives essential vitamins and minerals. However, it’s best to consult your avian veterinarian before adding supplements to your bird’s diet to avoid overdosing. 

Regular checkups and monitoring your African Grey’s weight will meet their nutritional needs.

Health and Wellbeing

African Grey Parrots can live long, happy lives if you provide proper care. In this section, we will discuss the health and well-being of your African Grey, including signs of illness, common health issues, and the importance of regular veterinary care.

Signs of Illness

Keeping a close eye on your African Grey and familiarizing yourself with the signs of illness is essential. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Feather plucking: This could be a sign of stress or health issues
  • Lethargy: Unusual lack of energy or enthusiasm

  • Loss of appetite: Reduced food intake or refusal to eat
  • Discharge: Unusual fluid from the eyes, nostrils, or mouth

  • Difficulty breathing: Labored respiration or wheezing

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Common Health Issues

African Greys can suffer from various health issues that can be managed by detecting symptoms early. Some common health concerns include:

  • Psittacosis: A bacterial infection with symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and diarrhea

  • Feather destructive behaviors: Caused by stress, boredom, or diet-related problems

  • Aspergillosis: A fungal infection that affects the respiratory system

Prevent these issues by providing a balanced diet, mental stimulation, and a clean environment.

Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care is essential for keeping your African Grey healthy. Be sure to choose a vet specializing in avian or exotic pets. Veterinary visits should include:

  • Annual checkups: To monitor your parrot’s overall health and identify any potential issues
  • Vaccinations: As recommended by your vet

  • Beak, wing, and nail trims: Regular grooming and trimming help reduce the risk of injury and overgrowth
  • Emergency care: Immediate attention if your parrot experiences an accident or severe illness

Paying attention to your African Grey’s health and well-being can ensure a happy, comfortable life for your feathered companion.

Is the African Grey Parrot Endangered?

The African grey parrot, faces endangerment primarily due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Native to the dense forests of central Africa, these parrots have seen their populations decline drastically.

Overharvesting for the pet industry, coupled with deforestation and habitat degradation, threatens their survival.

International conservation efforts under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have placed restrictions on their trade, yet illegal trafficking persists, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced protection and conservation measures to ensure their future.

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