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african grey parrot
irene pepperberg
dr irene
sparky
simple fact
Your Beloved African Grey
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Your Beloved African Grey

Your Beloved Grey

One the most wanted parrot species as a pet is an African Grey parrot. It is due to a simple fact that they talk and are extremely intelligent. Most people that want a parrot want a parrot that talks which is a misconception because not all African Greys talk. Most times the end result leads the person to give up the parrot because of the responsibility an African Grey can be. There is a lot of responsibility with owning one of these special species.

They are known to be one of the smartest animals; yes I said animals, like chimpanzees, dolphins and even a human toddler. Not that a human toddler is an animal but they are correlated with a child. Their production of human speech is amazing. They talk in the third person, like a human. Sparky our three year Grey will answer a question when one is asked or respond when my wife and I are talking. I was asking my wife a question and she had not responded and Sparky replied “What?” just as she would say “What?” I can go on the many things Sparky says, responds and finishes off in a sentence, which even surprises me.

A notable African Grey N”kisi, a Timneh a African Grey, who in 2004 was said to a have a vocabulary of 950 words. When Jane Goodall came to visit him in New York he greeted her with “Got a chimp” He knew Jane Goddall from watching TV and seeing her in pictures with chimpanzees in Africa. There is also Alex the famous African Grey, which was a Congo, that Dr. Irene Pepperberg worked with in a scientific setting. He had the ability to associate simple words with meanings and intelligently apply abstract concepts of shape, number, size, color, and zero-sense. The day before he died Alex’s last words to Dr. Pepperberg was “You be good. I love you.” May Alex rest in peace. Yes these two notable Greys displayed an outstanding sense of intelligence for an animal.

Please keep in mind that not all Greys talk or show such intelligence. This should not be reason to get this type of parrot. Greys require a lot of love, attention, stimulation and responsibility. Due to the intelligence you need to keep them stimulated, occupied and showered in love. Yes all parrots require this, but Greys seem to need more of the stimulation and being occupied than other parrots.

Misconceptions of an African Grey Arguably there are misconceptions about Greys. Many people say an African Grey parrot is neurotic and a one person bird. Some say they scream, pluck their feathers, are high strung, nervous and they bite. This depends on your household and how you raise your Grey. Greys need to be socialized. This is a very important factor to know when you get it from the bird store or the breeder. Having a socialized baby Grey will build its confidence and disposition. When you bring it home have everybody and I mean everybody interact with it. Like any parrot don’t let it be favored by one individual person, everybody in the household needs to interact with the baby. Some people agree and disagree to let a baby Grey keep their flight feathers for a month or two when bringing it home. Some critics say that Greys are awkward and clumsy and will hurt themselves. Others believe it helps them build self-confidence and security. With the latter we decided to let Sparky keep his flight feathers when he came home, yes he flew from the cage across the room to the couch but he never hurt himself. However, after a short period of time he soon began to copy our Amazon and would run around on the floor, chasing him and this continues to this day. We felt he was ready to have his wings clipped and with end result being a positive one. Severe wing trims when a Grey is a baby can lead to insecurity and no self-confidence. It can lead to further insecurities and fears as they grow up. Sparky is probably one of the most confident little guys I know and has no fear of anything. You can bring a new toy and he is at it with a vengeance, new food is a great treat to him and digs in and new situations are a little weird at first to him but he settles right in after a couple of hours. We have moved two times in his short threes of being with us and we have had none of the preconceptions of a Grey and have gone on two vacations, which one was for ten days. He had a blast at the babysitters, not as much fun as home but he was fine when he came back home.

Neurotic Behaviors Behaviors that are thought of as neurotic are formed when they are stressed, have insecurities and a lack of self-confidence. African greys are hardwired for to flee from danger and we are expecting them to understand all the strange things about its environment we have put them in. They do not have their flock to protect them. African Grey parrots live in large flocks that forage on the ground together. They go from their roost and find food on the ground and trees. Keep in mind that baby Greys remain in their family unit much longer to develop emotionally then when they are being hand-fed. They are still wild animals and still have that sense in built in them. Greys must entertain themselves with toys and kept busy or they become stressed and will show self-destructive behavior.

It is a wise idea to not have a set pattern with your grey, as they will become rigid with that routine and expect it to be the same everyday. Baby Greys need to explore and accept change. Keeping a rigid schedule will not allow your Grey to be confident and secure. By introducing a baby Grey to new adventures, objects and situations will be benefited by you and your new baby. It is critical to make change acceptable to your Grey; safely and slowly.

One Person Bird Many people will say that an African Grey parrot is a one person bird. In our home this is not true. Sparky loves my wife and me. He may favor my wife more but she is mommy of the house and that happens in most human households, until they realize mommy lays down the rules. This is a complete fallacy that African Greys are one person parrots. They will interact with anybody that interacts with them. They interact with you as a toddler would interact with a parent. Your African Grey is very rewarding and the reciprocation of love is never ending.

Diet In my opinion there isn’t anything a Grey won’t eat when introduced. Sparky eats seed, pellets, fruits, veggies and yes our food. He loves bones may it be chicken or the bones from our steak. You need to take into consideration their calcium levels. Talk to your avian specialist as it is more complex than just feeding your Grey calcium enriched foods. They will recommend a wide variety of foods, a calcium/phosphorus supplement and/or pellets. It is imperative you speak with the doctor about it and not take it upon yourself.

Toys and Cage These are the two most important things you have to think about when you have an African Grey parrot. The cage needs to be the biggest you can afford. At minimum the cage needs to be 32 inches by 23 inches. Toys, toys, toys and more toys; you can never have enough toys for Greys. Change them out weekly. This is great for stimulation and keeping their busy minds occupied. Play music or put on the TV for them when you are out of the house, though I do warn you to be careful on the TV shows they choose. They may pick up something you don’t want repeated. I like to put on cartoons. They are family friendly.

Speech Does an African Grey parrot mimic? Some say yes and some say no. I am one of those disagrees and would say no. Sparky can put sentences together from hearing my wife and I speak to each other. They can copy human voices; appliance sounds and put speech together with speaking in the 3rd person. In the wild Greys would mimic other bird calls and chainsaws. In our home it is almost like a practical joke with his telephone ringing sound or if the phone rings he answers it and starts to have a conversation.

When your Grey screams as if they are dyeing when playing with a toy or swinging from a perch wildly you know you have a happy parrot. People wonder why Greys scratch at the bottom of their cage, there is no explanation. Sparky even scratches in the corner of the couch. I don’t know if he is trying to dig a hole to china like any five year old or if he is searching for something, it is just unexplainable. Some people believe it is a sign that they want out of their cage contrary to belief they do it when they are out of the cage.

There are two Subspecies of the African Grey parrots. There is the Congo that is larger, lighter gray, red tail and black beak. Then there is the Timneh who is smaller in size, dark charcoal grey, maroon tail and horn-colored upper mandible. Of course you have heard of the Cameroon, the ever elusive Cameroon. There is no such thing; it is just a way of getting you to pay more money. It is also called the Big Silver or even the Ghana. It has not been scientifically proven of these other two subspecies. There are only two subspecies and they are the Congo and Timneh African Grey. When we got Sparky we fell into the Cameroon trap but my wife would not pay the price they were asking. Some Congo’s just happen to be larger than others.

African Grey parrots have not been domesticated over a long period of time. Many parrots that are domesticated are one or two generations in.Despite them being one or two generations from the their wild predecessor; there is a long record in history of people owning Greys. They were kept by the ancient Greeks, the wealthy families in Rome, King Henry VII and Portuguese sailors.

One of the most delightful animals one can come across is an African Grey parrots and become companions with. The gratification you get will only grow as each day passes. There is so much to learn from these great creatures. They love to learn and we can show them how by being patient and understanding their needs. Your new addition is a five year old with the emotional needs of a two year old, only it is feathered. I love Sparky to the end and you will too with your Grey.


Street Talk

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