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African grey parrot

African grey parrot
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Superfamily: Psittacoidea
Family: Psittacidae
Subfamily: Psittacinae
Genus: Psittacus
Species: P. erithacus
Binomial name
Psittacus erithacus
Linnaeus, 1758
Range in green

The African grey parrot, grey parrot or Congo African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is an Old World parrot in the family Psittacidae.


  • Description 1
  • Distribution and habitat 2
  • Behaviour and ecology 3
    • Breeding 3.1
    • Food and feeding 3.2
    • Threats to survival 3.3
  • Relationship to humans 4
  • References 5


The African grey parrot is a medium-sized, predominantly grey, black-billed parrot which weighs 400 g, with a length of 33 cm[2] and an average wingspan of 46–52 cm.[3] The tail and undertail coverts are red, in comparison to the maroon of the smaller Timneh parrot. Both sexes appear similar.[2]

The colouration of juveniles is similar to that of adults, however the eye is typically dark grey to black, in comparison to the greyish-yellow eyes of the adult birds. The undertail coverts are also tinged with grey.[2]

African grey parrots are long-lived birds that may live for 40-60 years in captivity, although their mean lifespan in the wild appears to be somewhat shorter at ~23 years.[3]

Distribution and habitat

The African grey parrot is native to equatorial Africa, including Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Angola. There is much uncertainty in estimates of global population, which range from 0.6-13 million individuals. The species seems to favour dense forests but can also be found at forest edges and in more open vegetation types (gallery and savannah forests).[1]

Behaviour and ecology


African grey parrots are monogamous breeders which nest in tree cavities. The hen lays 3–5 eggs, which she incubates for 30 days while being fed by her mate. Young leave the nest at the age of 12 weeks. Little is known about the courtship behaviour of this species in the wild.[3]

Food and feeding

The African grey parrot is primarily a herbivore, feeding on fruit, nuts, leaves, bark and flowers, but may also take insects.[3]

Threats to survival

Humans are by far the largest threat to wild African grey populations. Between 1994 and 2003, over 359,000 African grey parrots were traded on the international market. Mortality amongst imported birds is high.[4] As a result of the extensive harvest of wild birds, in addition to habitat loss, this species is believed to be undergoing a rapid decline in the wild and has therefore been rated as vulnerable by the IUCN.[1]

Relationship to humans

The species is common in captivity and is regularly kept by humans as a companion parrot, prized for its ability to mimic human speech, which makes it one of the most popular avian pets.[1] However, it may be prone to behavioural problems due to its sensitive nature.[4]

African Greys are also highly intelligent, having been shown to perform at the cognitive level of a 4-6 year old child in some tasks. Most notably, Dr. Irene Pepperberg's work with Alex the parrot showed his ability to learn over 100 words, differentiating between objects, colors, materials, and shapes. [5]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Pepperberg, I.M. (2002) The Alex Studies: cognitive and communicative abilities of grey parrots. Harvard University Press.
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