African Grey Parrots

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African Grey Parrot            genus  PSITTACUS erithacus erithacus
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The Grey Parrot has been a cherished pet in Europe since the reign of Henry VIII during the sixteenth century, and possibly even earlier than this time. 

This genus has 3 subspecies ,one now thought to be extinct.

The other two are well known and readily available in the USA.  The small sub species P. e.  timneh known as the Timneh Grey Parrot is smaller and darker in appearance than the nominate form and has a horn colored top mandible and maroon colored tail. The origins of the Timneh Grey is concentrated in the western coastal regions of Guinea, Ghana and the Ivory Coast of Africa. The nominate form P. e.  erithacus is better known by several so called market names such as Red Tail Grey, Congo Grey, Cameroon and Ghana or West African Grey.  These labels have created a very confused public for many many years. .

These names are were normally used to identify the African geographical origin of a particular bird's ancestry, such as CONGO AFRICAN GREY: from the Central African Congo Republic and other central regions of Africa. CAMEROON AFRICAN GREY:  from the Cameroon region of Africa also central Africa. WEST AFRICAN GREY or GHANA GREY: from GHANA or the more western regions of Africa such as the Ivory Coast and Guinea.  

Some less informed breeders and dealers try to attach these names to their birds describing certain size or color variations, such as,  one breeder told me that he has a pair of Cameroon African Greys he would like to sell to me. I asked him how did he know these birds origin?  He replied with    " Oh, I don't know where they came from, but they are large and silver " therefore they are Cameroon African Greys or so he was told by a dealer that sold them to him. Some dealers knew that by attaching these names they could demand higher prices from the public. In the mid eighties during the heyday of U.S. bird importation, I had several business deals and conversations with several large well known U.S. African Grey importers. 

These importers said there was no way of anyone ever knowing what region a shipment of African Greys actually were trapped. Native AFRICAN trappers could travel large distances and from different regions to sell their birds to exporters and buyers and most of the time would have birds from different regions. 

In a single shipment of 500 or more greys there would be many color variations and sizes. It was common practice for importers to separate the color variations and sizes into groups, and attach names such as Cameroon, Congos, and Ghana's without ever knowing if these birds were actually trapped in these regions. But by attaching these so called names they got more money from even so called experts.

There is a variance in size and color of African Greys throughout Africa, starting from West to East is the darker and smaller to the light silver and larger birds being found more to the East and central regions.

But these are not different species but only geo differences due to environmental circumstances. Some experts believe that diet and evolution can have the most effect on size and color. One theory is, since larger mineral deposits and unlimited abundant food sources are likely to occur in the more central dense forest regions, these birds would have evolved slightly larger and have less melanin in the feathers creating a lighter silver look. 

Joseph Forshaw the reknown author of Parrots of The World states that quartz and many other high minerals and nutient rich particles was found in the intestinal tract of birds trapped in Central African regions. Birds found in the western regions contained very little or none of these particles and food sources are more scarce in that region. These birds would be of course smaller and darker than the birds in the east. Are they a different species?, absolutely not. Should any of these geographical separated birds be labeled Ghana, Western, Cameroon,congo or whatever? No. 

These same birds colors may change or morph to some degree when the diet is corrected. As we have researched and proved on our farm sometime ago.

When we starting collecting breeding stock in late 70's early 80's, many  years ago we noticed some birds that first appeared darker and these birds were labeled as west african greys (Ghanas) become more silver in color once the diet was corrected, therefore the above theory may have some merit. 

As we set up some of these smaller darker colored birds for breeding and started producing babies, we also noticed that our babies from these pairs were much larger and very silver compared to the parents. Some of our other pairs of African greys that were very large and silver also produced large and smaller babies, also produced darker and some silver. We feel that diet has more to do with color and size than anything else. Since all of the babies now produced in the U.S. are offspring of these  original imports or from first generation, second generation or even third generation breeders, there is absolutely NO way for anyone to label a bird with the correct origin based name such as Cameroon, Congo etc. So do not be fooled by this practice by dealers and breeders that state they have something special such as Cameroon, Congo, etc. We breed the one nominate species of Grey Parrot. The nominate species, we call the Red Tail Grey for obvious reasons.      

In this species there are many different sizes and color variations, but do we know for sure that a certain bird ancestry came  from a certain region in Africa? No.         Does anyone else know?, absolutely not.  

What difference does it make? Red Tail African Grey is Red Tail African Grey.

African Greys are one of the most talked about species of parrots. They are well known for talking ability and their intelligence. Since 1982 we have bred and reared 100's of greys with all being almost the same in one aspect of personality, that is they are timid and somewhat shy around strangers as a general rule. One should move slowly around greys. Greys do not take well to change once they have adapted to an environment, changes should be done over time as not to stress them out in a household. Many will scream, growl and flutter around strangers or new toys. You just have to take it easy until they get use to you. 

There are exceptions to this I do understand as we have seen some that were not the normal acting grey in nature.. The normal being timid and shy around strangers. But with all said and done African Greys are one of the highly regarded talking species of all parrots.  Almost all become a prized addition to any ones family. Most all our babies are very sweet and get very attached to their owners. I think one thing that amazes most people about greys is they can mimic and sound just like a certain voice. I have heard some sound like women and men, some can sound like an old mans voice. 

Greys are one of the best mimics around. Most greys take some time to develop their talents, some taking a couple years to really get going with their talking. Many Grey owners are disappointed when they get a grey and then it just does not talk right away. They must have time. GO slow around greys as they are not like other species of parrots. Many Greys are shy around strangers and refuse to talk around strangers, but when the strangers leave, they start up. One thing that most people must understand is that the reputation of the greys talking ability has been grossly exaggerated in many instances over the years. Some just do not live up to their reputation.  But I will give the credit where credit is due, 

Most Greys do make one of the finest talkers ever with the proper training and given time.

They make a sweet bird for the beginner or long term bird owners, once they understand the common personality and characteristics of this species and what to expect.

I must say this, do not be disappointed if your Grey does not perform like those birds you see on TV or read about on the internet, as many of those birds just may not exist, or those birds are highly trained and most household pets just do not get that kind of training. Love your bird and enjoy it for what it is. Excellent talker or not, performing or not, you should still love your bird. 

The African grey has been cherished as one of the best talking species of parrots. Accept them for what they are. Never purchase a parrot with talking as the main objective. They are much more than that. These birds are highly affectionate and intelligent creatures sometimes acting like small children.

We own and operate one of the largest and most successful breeding farms on the east coast USA. today.                  

We are professional resposible breeders and we continue to educate people how to properly maintain their birds

 
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