African grey parrot

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African grey parrot
Psittacus erithacus -perching on tray-8d.jpg
African grey parrot in captivity
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
Congo Grey Parrot range.jpg
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.


The African grey parrot is a medium-sized, predominantly grey, black-billed parrot which weighs 400 g, with a length of 33 cm[1] and an average wingspan of 46–52 cm.[2] The tail and undertail coverts are red, in comparison to the maroon of the smaller Timneh parrot. Both sexes appear similar.[1]

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.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The African grey parrot is endemic to the Congo, Africa.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]


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.[2]

Food and feeding[edit]

The African grey parrot is primarily a herbivore, feeding on fruit, nuts, leaves, bark and flowers. However it will also eat insects.[2]

Threats to survival[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Relationship to humans[edit]

The species is common in captivity and is regularly kept by humans as a companion parrot, prized for its ability to mimic human speech. However, it may be prone to behavioural problems due to its sensitive nature.[3]

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 "Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus)". World Parrot Trust. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Holman, Rachel. "Psittacus erithacus". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) – Care In Captivity". World Parrot Trust. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  4. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Psittacus erithacus (Grey Parrot)". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Pepperberg, I.M. (2002) The Alex Studies: cognitive and communicative abilities of grey parrots. Harvard University Press.