African Grey Parrot

7 Things Only African Grey Parrot Parents Understand

Author Bio

Get close to an African grey parrot and you learn things not visible at a distance. Some of these things, many people know. Even if you are not an African grey parrot parent, you may know that these birds are great companions; they are intelligent; they bond with you if you treat them well, meeting all of their needs. You may know that African grey parrots, like many parrot species, love to communicate vocally.

However, people who own African grey parrots, i.e., their parents, understand things that other people usually do not understand.

Among 7 things only African grey parrot parents understand, we include some that may seem common to anyone who owns a parrot, no matter the species. However, look closely and you will see that the African grey parrot treats life differently.

Compare it to Golden Retrievers. There are things that only Golden Retriever dog parents know. For example, Golden Retrievers love to pick up treasures in their soft mouths and carry them all the way home – even the deflated soccer ball our Trevor managed one day! So let’s look at…


Dog, Cat and Parrot


Dogs and cats are domesticated animals. Humans brought them gradually from the way they lived in the wild to an ability to associate closely with humans.

Parrots have not gone through that process. Your African grey harbors inside its head exactly what it would have in the wild. It can become a friend and love being with you, but it will never be so in the way a cat or dog would be, and will never enjoy that.

Your African grey parrot will not likely fall in love with your dog or cat, though it may become curious and even learn to be tolerant. If you try to establish a cross-species friendship, you risk injuries, and the transfer of disease from one to another.

Forget the so-called pet friendship videos you see on social media. Some parrots, such as the cockatiel, have become popular and relatively tame. African grey parrot parents understand, however, that a cockatiel and an African grey are no more the same parrots than a nervous Chihuahua and a laid-back Golden Retriever are the same dogs.

Grey on Perch with Carrot


African grey parrot parents understand that this parrot lives as long as 50 to 60 years. Research shows, too, that some documented cases show African greys have lived to be 100 years old. Parents understand that they are taking on an immense commitment. Even those of us who live to be 80-something will need to become African grey parrot parents at age 20 to 30.

You must commit to take care of the parrot if you remain single, marry, have children, move to a new location, or experience illness. Your parrot counts on you. You are “it” for the parrot, and must do everything possible to meet the parrot’s needs, regardless of what happens to you. It’s not unusual for one generation to pass an African grey to the next generation.

An African grey parrot, so intelligent, playful, and attached to one person, cannot sit home alone while you work overtime or travel. Other birds may accept babysitters, but your African grey parrot needs you!. It needs to know you will come and talk to it, listen to it, and play with it. It needs to know that its “sole companion” did not forget about it.


When you become parent to an African grey, you will understand quickly that these parrots carry a hefty price tag. Grey Parrot on Perch with Sweet PotatoUnlike domestic cats and dogs, African grey parrots seldom end up in animal shelters, so you will have to find a trustworthy avian store or parrot farm.

On average, you will spend $1,000 to $1,500 to buy a healthy young African Grey parrot. Second-owner parrots are less likely to bond, and often come with a lot of “baggage” from the previous living quarters.

After you buy an African grey, you learn that the costs continue: large cage; permanent leg bands in case it gets lost; travel crate; toys; and food. Of course, you understand that a visit to a veterinarian who understands your grey’s care will be pricey, but essential. An avian store will provide the proper cage, varied toys, and food your parrot will demand.

Yes, you could cut corners, but your responsibility as an African grey parrot parent demands that you prepare to spend as necessary to keep your bird healthy and happy.


Grey Parrot with Beak ExposedAfrican greys can become chatterboxes, talking often and clearly, but also interacting with seeming young child’s intelligence! Then, they can suddenly stop talking.

Why do parrots stop talking?

Look at the birth certificate. If you recently celebrated its sixth birthday, hormones may be the answer. Just say, “I’m probably in for teenage moods, refusal to communicate, and all that goes with it. Hope it doesn’t last long!”

However, some greys stop talking before or after the onset of adolescence. Why can this happen to a younger or more mature bird?

An African grey parrot sticks like glue to “its person” day after day, wanting nothing to do with anyone else.

Surprisingly, it may dump “its person” at the drop of a hat and take up with a different household member. Only the parrot knows why, and it’s not likely to discuss it.

African grey parrot parents understand that their parrot’s IQ rates exceptionally higher than that of most parrots. Greys have a mind of their own, and will not let you force them into doing anything – including talking. The best way to encourage a grey that stopped talking is to give choices. “Do you want to play?” followed by the choice, “Do you want to eat?” The bird hears a friendly voice, likes to make its own decisions, and begins talking more quickly if you give it a choice in the matter. Of course, you will sometimes require immediate cooperation. Those times call for a firm voice without questions. “Come out and play.”


Grey Parrot on StairsOf the 7 things only African grey parrot parents understand, this requires a lot of understanding!

Your African grey needs lots of exercise – outside the cage – with constant oversight. It boasts strong muscles and, lacking a gym to keep those muscles toned, needs several hours daily outside the cage.

Good parents set aside supervised, “parrot proof” play areas, realizing that an African grey is so like a toddler. It wants to explore its surroundings in detail.

Understanding parents never leave an African grey out of the cage while they are away, but make the house safe for daily parrot playtime.

Start with the room in which you spend most of your time. Get on your hands and knees and look around. See the room as your grey will see it. Understand its crafty brain. Avoid leaving behind overlooked risks.

●  Houseplants – keep none that is toxic to parrots.
●  Electrical/coaxial cords – wrap cords in PVC tubing.
●  Wall outlets – cover with toddler-proof boxes, not small plastic outlet insets.
●  Windows/mirrors – decorate glass to avoid harmful crash injury. Decals barely visible
to humans will warn away parrots:
●  Escape routes – secure all windows and doors so your parrot stays home.
●  Ceiling fans – replace chains/cords with switches.

Giving your African grey several hours a day out of its cage is vital. Create a safe play area, and then limit your parrot to that and to the times you can be with it.


  African Grey eating Spaghetti

The sixth of 7 things only African grey parrot parents understand is that you cannot assume a right diet for other species will give your grey needed nutrition. It will try to eat anything, but that may cause health problems.

For one thing, African greys are susceptible to calcium and vitamin A deficiencies. They are prone to unhealthy obesity, since they no longer soar into the air. Meet its need for a well- balanced diet and you will help your grey be stronger and leaner.

A commercial seed mix may be well-balanced. However, your grey can become a “picky” eater, sorting the dish of food, pushing aside what it likes least and eating only its “favorite” kinds of seed. Meet your African grey’s nutritional needs by buying food from outlets such as Windy City Parrot.

Understand that your grey needs fruits, vegetables, and greens – which should make up about 25% of its daily food. Pass up pale vegetables, and concentrate on orange, red, and yellow veggies such as squash, red peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

African Grey in Aviary


The best of the 7 things only African grey parrot parents understand is that their parrot has changed their lives in unimaginable ways! While you are meeting your grey’s needs, it is meeting some of yours.

Say good-bye to boredom, and find new ways to keep your little friend occupied. You will enjoy the process. This pet loves brain challenges, and you can provide them.

If you need stimulating conversation, turn to your African grey. It will converse eagerly, and learn as many as a thousand or more words. It has extraordinary vocal range, and is able to mimic human voices as well as other sounds, squawks, and whistles. It can do more than just “parrot back” what you teach it, too. It will show impressive intelligence as it keeps the conversation going. The few African greys researchers have studied showed that they could understand and use language purposefully to respond to your particular questions accurately.


One other thing: You may need to rethink living space. African greys use loud calls to keep track of each other in the jungle – and will do the same in apartments, condos, etc. You might find it amusing, but it may annoy your neighbors. Keep it in mind!

Photo by L.Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (