African Grey Parrot
|African Grey Parrot|
|Congo African Grey Parrot|
|Timneh African Grey Parrot|
|Psittacus erithacus Linnaeus, 1758|
|Ranges shown by the red areas|
The African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), also known as the Grey Parrot, is a parrot found in the primary and secondary rainforest of West and Central Africa. Experts regard it as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. They feed primarily on palm nuts, seeds, fruits, and leafy matter, but have also been observed eating snails. Their overall gentle nature and their inclination and ability to mimic speech have made them popular pets, which has led many to be captured from the wild and sold into the pet trade. The African Grey Parrot is listed on CITES Appendix II, which restricts trade of wild-caught species because wild populations cannot sustain trapping for the pet trade.
Taxonomy and systematics
- Congo African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus): This is the nominate subspecies, larger than the Timneh at about 33 cm (13 in) long, with light-grey feathers, cherry-red tails, and an all-black beak. Immature birds of this subspecies have tails with a darker, duller red towards the tip (Juniper and Parr 1999) until their first moult, which occurs by 18 months of age. These birds also initially have grey irises, which change to a pale yellow colour by the time the bird is a year old. The Congo Grey Parrot is found on the islands of Príncipe and Bioko, and is distributed from southeastern Ivory Coast to western Kenya, northwest Tanzania, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and northern Angola. In aviculture, it is often called a “CAG”.
- Timneh African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus timneh, or Psittacus timneh): This subspecies is smaller in size, has a darker charcoal grey colouring, a darker maroon tail, and a light, horn-coloured area to part of the upper mandible. The Timneh Grey Parrot is endemic to the western parts of the moist Upper Guinea forests and bordering savannas of West Africa from Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, and southern Mali east to at least 70 km (43 mi) east of the Bandama River in Ivory Coast. It is often called a “TAG”. As pets, Timnehs begin learning to speak earlier than Congos and are often said to be less nervous around strangers and novel situations. In 2012, Birdlife International gave the Timneh Parrot full species status and it was classified as Vulnerable.
Some aviculturalists recognize third and fourth subspecies, but these are not distinguishable in scientific studies.
Behaviour and ecology
Like many large parrots, the African Grey is a long-lived bird. The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database states the longest reliably recorded longevity for the species in captivity as 49.7 years. Also acknowledged are claims of captive African Grey parrots reaching the ages of 73 and 93, whereas the World Parrot Trust lists a longevity of 50–60 years for an African Grey in captivity. The Guinness Book of World Records listed a grey parrot that allegedly lived in captivity for 72 years as the longest-lived specimen for the species.