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WHERE DO THEY ORIGINATE FROM?
The A. Greys
are found in Western and Central Africa from Guinea to N. Angola
The Congo Grey,
also called the Cameroon or Ghana Grey, ranges from Cote d'Ivoire to N.
The TIMNEH is found in S. Guinea and Western
Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
The Birds live in mangrove Swamps
and along rivers foraging for fruits, nuts, seeds and berries
Which is why in captivity you
must try and replicate this varied diet.
They also raid cultivated
DESCRIPTION of the CONGO AFRICAN GREY
- Colour Grey of varying shades with a bright red
- Often the hen is a lighter shade of Grey
(paler slate grey)
- than the cock bird (which is a
darker iron grey)
- the single bird in the picture on the left,
is a hen.
- Paler body with darker grey to wing tips.
- the pair of greys, on the right, show the
difference in colour between a cock and hen.
- they all have an oval of white, almost bare
skin, surrounding the eyes (see picture)
- Baby birds have "solid" dark eyes - showing
no white. . . .
Click picture of Baby Grey ►
- Once they start to mature after the first
moult their eyes become lighter and have a pale edge
round a brown iris.
- Length : 12 -
- Weighs 450 -
500grams (approx 1lb)
- Reach maturity
approx 2yrs old
- Lifespan : Can live to 50 years+
- (this obviously MUST be taken into
consideration when buying one
- - it is a lifetime's commitment!
- Solid Black beak
- Both species have: Grey, strong feet with 4
toes - 2 pointing backward and 2 pointing forward
- Strong claws which may need trimmed if they
grow too long.
- Broad head and short neck
DESCRIPTION of the TIMNEH
GREY (Psittacus erithacus timneh)
- Smaller and
darker birds with Maroon tails
- Their Black beaks have a
pinkish cast to them
- They measure approx 10"
- They aren't quite as
heavy and weigh in at approx. 300grams (approx 10oz)
- They reach maturity
around the age of 2years
- They also can live to 50
years+ if looked after correctly.
- Other than size and
colouring there is very little difference between the 2 sub-species.
- Some people consider the
Timneh to be an inferior bird/Pet but this isn't so at all.
- They do cost a lot less
to buy however, so if you want and African Grey and can't afford a Congo
which sells for approx £550 - £600 (2007) you could always go for a
Timneh which is about 1/2 that.
SIGNS of a HEALTHY
- Bright, clear,
- Clean Cere - no
discharge (Cere = the area above the birds' beak that covers
it's nares or nostrils)
- Upright posture
- Actively moving
around the cage/Aviary
- Clean legs and
Vent area (no soiling)
- Smooth feathers
(with no obvious stress marks or plucking)
- Feathers appear
"greasy-looking" or sleek, rather than dry & brittle.
- Good Appetite
- In warm weather
- you may
notice your Bird (any bird) sitting with its wings held away
from it's body, rolling it's tongue and holding it's mouth
- This is how a
bird cools itself down.
- Watch your
bird carefully tho., on warm days becos they can overheat
quickly and may suffer heatstroke which requires Vet
- (More a
problem abroad than in England esp. this summer - 2007)!
wonder if we will get any warm, never mind hot weather
SIGNS OF ILLNESS
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping all the
time with head under wing
and often both feet on the perch
birds tend to sleep on one foot with the other foot tucked
up under it).
- Change in
appearance or number of droppings
- (this is
quite relevant and you can tell a lot from the colour and
consistency of a dropping)
- If you take
your bird to the Avian Vet you can take a dropping with you
- - it can
help with their diagnosis.
- Be aware that
the colour of the droppings can change with diet also - so
may not be a sign of illness of disease - so change of
droppings without other symptoms - think what you have fed
your bird that may have produced this colour?
- Be aware tho
that the Urates (white part of the dropping) should always
- If they
are Yellow it may indicate Liver problems - Toxicity!
- Weight loss
- Lameness (can
also indicate internal problems i.e. tumour - so never
eaten food stuck to the birds' face
regurgitated onto the Cage Floor (can be innocent or not).
breathing with or without tail bobbing (which indicates
chronic Lung problems).
- runny eyes or
- If a normally
chatty bird stops talking or singing
- IF YOUR BIRD
SHOWS ANY OF THE ABOVE or a COMBINATION - WASTE NO TIME - GET
YOUR BIRD TO AN AVIAN VET.
- 1 DAY of ILLNESS
IN A BIRD is equivalent to 7 days in a HUMAN
- A BIRD only shows
it is ill once it can hide it no longer - as in the wild if it
showed any signs of illness, weakness or infirmity then it
would be predated on by other birds or animals and killed!
- FLUFFING :
- A healthy
Grey will fluff before preening or for short periods.
- If your Grey
seems to remain fluffed up for an extended period - be wary
could be a sign of illness - consult your Avian Vet.
- MUTUAL PREENING
- 2 Birds will
preen each other affectionately but if you notice excessive
feather loss, make sure one bird is not picking on the other
and pulling out healthy feathers.
- FEATHER PLUCKING:
- a healthy
bird will preen often to keep its feathers in top shape.
- However, a
bird under stress may start to preen excessively and severe
feather loss can occur.
- A bit similar
to a human who bites their nails - once they start it is
diff. to stop.
feathers sometimes grow back red
red feathers might be a sign of nutritional deficiency)!
- The Birds' are dimorphic (i.e. look the same or very
- So their sex can only be reliably established by
Testing (feathers or blood)
- Or Surgical Sexing (by an Avian Vet).
- When you see a cock and hen side
by side - the cock is usually a darker bolder colour
- The Hen is often slightly smaller
and paler in colour.
- Mature female has a smaller head and bill.
- It's often said that the male A.Grey
prefers women and the Hen prefers men.
- As with every "theory" there are many
exceptions to the rule!
- A. Greys are noted for their ability to
mimic both speech, whistles and other sounds.
- So perfectly that sometimes you think
they are what they are mimicking if you can just hear
them and not see them!
- As a pet they need lots of love and attention
and time spent on them and with them.
- Not a bird to be left on it's own all day - so if you work, this
is not the bird for you!
- They have the intelligence of a Dolphin,
chimp or even a 3yr old
child and also have reasoning abilities
- Some people say they act via instinct
- but their ability to associate situations
with phrases they come out with is uncanny!
- NOT for the beginner or as a "First Pet Bird"
- they are very demanding and can be noisy.
- If they do get bored or
upset they will pluck their feathers and once they start this it is very
difficult to stop them and get the feathers to regrow esp. if they
damage the feather shaft at
it's growth point.
BIRDIE TRAITS (Understanding Your African Grey's Behaviour)
- If you hear subtle
little "Fluffs" coming from under the cage cover first thing in the
- it's just your Pet reminding you it's there and wants attention.
attention-seeking behaviour inc. shaking toys to make a noise
- or soft vocalizations
- BAT BIRD
- This an affectionate
term used to describe the Grey that enjoys hanging upside down from
their cage/Aviary/curtains/light-fittings or anything else they can
- It's perfectly normal
and helps stretch and exercise.
- Some greys are more
prone to this than others.
- BEAK GRINDING
- This is a sign of
Contentment and is often heard as your bird is resting or preparing
down for the night.
- BEAK WIPING
- Usually after they
have eaten, they will wipe their beaks on a perch etc., as a human
would wipe their mouths on a napkin.
- They will often take
little Catnaps thru the day - this is normal.
- As long as they seem
bright and cheerful afterwards and show no other signs of feeling
off colour such as loss of appetite or having a "Fluffed-up"
appearance, then all is well.
- If your Bird Growls
(and it is a very distinctive noise) then it is unhappy, stressed or
frightened and is trying to scare something or someone away from her
- You hear this a lot
at Sales when "Wild-caught" or Aviary-bred birds are submitted for
esp. those in "All-wire" cages, where they feel vulnerable to all
the people crowding round or getting too close to them.
- They are trying to
warn away whatever is worrying them.
- If a bird Growls then
it is being STRESSED or threatened!
- If it is your bird at
home then you must work out what is upsetting your Pet.
- It may be something
as simple as something that wasn't there before i.e. a plant or vase
- Remember they are
very suspicious birds and do not accept new things or change easily,
- Colours - esp. bright
ones (red!) can also effect your bird.
- PAIR BONDING
- Not only do mated
pairs bond but birds of the same sex will often develop a very
- This includes sitting
very close to one another and mutual preening
- They even mimic each
other's action - such as scratching, yawning or stretching at the
- REGURGITATING FOOD
- Sometimes your pet
will regurgitate her food.
- If you see your Pet
narrowing her eye pupils, bobbing her neck and crop muscles
- It will then
regurgitate food - this is usually Normal.
- They do this to their
mates - usually the cock to the hen - at Breeding time
- So she can feed her
- It is a mark of
affection to "you" if she does it to you, as she is regarding you as
a friend worthy of this gesture.
- The only time to
worry is if your bird looks sick or is showing other signs of
illness and is also regurgitating her food.
- If this is the case -
Waste No Time - GET HER TO YOUR AVIAN VET.
- It could be a
serious blockage in the crop or digestive tract
- - this is
SERIOUS and could be life threatening!
- RESTING ON ONE FOOT with
it's HEAD UNDER IT'S WING
- Perfectly NORMAL
- In fact I'd be more
worried if my bird was resting on 2 feet with it's head under it's
- esp. if the
feathers appear raised as if the bird is trying to keep warm.
- This is a sign
something is not right - consult Your Avian Vet.
- Content, happy Greys
tend to be fairly quiet - unless copying something loud!
- Birds that feel
lonely, stressed, neglected or bored may become Screamers!
- Once a bird becomes a
Screamer it can be very difficult to break the habit.
- You go in to pacify
the Bird once it Screams is perceived by the Bird as a Reward
- As it has gained the
attention it craved - so it thinks that by Screaming it will get
- so it continues doing so - even if the attention it gets is
perhaps not the type of attention
it would like!
- Try and provide an
interesting environment for your Bird with plenty of attention etc.,
and hopefully you will prevent this situation ever developing.
- This is one reason -
you should never get an A.Grey if you are out of the house most of
- They need constant
interaction and attention or at least human presence.
- Many Parrots vocalize
around sunrise and sunset.
- The theory behind
this is that it hearkens back to Flock behaviour in the Wild
- When Parrots called
out to each other at the start and the end of the day.
- If your Pet calls out
to you, if she can' see you, it may mean she's feeling lonely and
- Perhaps if you just
call back she may then be fine and continue what she was doing.
- If she continues to
call then it would probably be a good idea to go and check all is
- Birds Sneezes are
classed as either non-productive or productive.
sneezes clear the birds nares/nostrils and are nothing to worry
- Some birds even stick
the end of their claw into their nostrils to induce a sneeze if they
feel they need to clear them.
- Productive Sneezes,
however produce a discharge and are a cause for concern.
- If your bird sneezes
frequently and there is a discharge
- or you notice that
the area around the nostrils appears wet or damp get in touch with
your Avian Vet and get it checked out.
- It could be a
sign of respiratory problems
- one of which
is caused by a lack of Vit A.
- Vit A is
readily available in raw carrot, spinich etc.
- Whatever it is
it needs an Avian Vet to look at it as it does need Urgent
- TESTING THINGS WITH THEIR
- Birds in general use
their beaks and mouths to explore their world in the way that we use
- They tend to "test"
things before accepting them
- Even your hand or
finger before "Stepping-up" sometimes - to see if it's a safe thing
- This testing process
isn't meant as a bite and has no pressure or malice in it - it will
not hurt you.
- So, try not to snatch
your hand/finger away if you bird does this as it will make her very
- You may notice your
Grey yawn from time to time.
- There are lots of
theories as to why they do this.
- It is commonly
agreed, however, that it is perfectly normal and probably is just
done in the
same way that we yawn.
- It is only to be
concerned about if it is done in conjunction with other symptoms of
TOYS for your PET GREY
- Anything that will keep
them occupied or stimulated
- Even Aviary Birds that
aren't in a Breeding situation, will benefit from Toys
- Home made toys from safe
wood and rope are as
good and as cheap as you will get.
- i.e. many pieces of
wood (discards from a joiners shop - not treated wood tho) strung
on a knotted leather thong or safe rope.
- Brightly coloured, bought
- Go to OXFAM or similar
Charity shops and anything designed for a baby to teeth on would make
a good toy for your bird.
- Bear in mind it will take
them a while to accept any new toys but also that you should rotate the
i.e. take one out and put another in so that they do not get bored with
- Check anything you give
to your bird first - it must be safe to chew and not shatter or have
bits that will break off and be swallowed.
HANDLING YOUR GREY
- They must also be taught
manners and by this I mean:
- If you let them out they must allow you to
catch them so it is very important to teach them to
"Step up" onto your hand
and allow themselves to be put back into their cage.
- It is often easier to put them in
"Backwards" so they stay facing you as you allow them to step onto their
perch or the platform your cage door has made if you have clipped it
into a flat position.
- NEVER ATTEMPT to catch your Pet Bird by
chasing it around the room or throwing a towel or similar over it.
- It will always remember this and become
difficult to train to catch as a result.
- Just think how you would react if the
situation was reversed¨!!
- You MUST NEVER allow them to sit on your
shoulder or head as this to any bird implies
DOMINANCE i.e. theirs over you.
- The higher a bird is compared to you the more
dominant it considers itself!
- This is why birds that are stacked in cages -
one on top of the other get very stressed if they are the ones in the lower
- A. Greys are dusty birds -
when they shake their feathers you will see a "Sea of dust"!
- Their feather dander and dust
from their powder down
feathers can cause or
- Symptoms can include
sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes in sensitive people.
- A sign of a healthy A.
Grey is a coating of chalky residue on their upper mandible (beak)
- If the beak is a shiny
black - it's a sign of poor feather condition
- or lack of preening
- or the preening gland
- at the base of the tail - is malfunctioning!
- NOT a sign of health
(as it would be in a dog that had a shiny, wet nose)
- Using an IONISER in your room
combined with an Air
freshening fan can help,
as the Negative Ions
sent out by the Ioniser makes the dust "go to earth"
- i.e. Dust particles will
attach themselves to surfaces in your room, such as your TV woodwork
etc., which obviously means you have to dust more often
- but the "Positive" dust
particles are not floating around in the atmosphere for you to
breath in which is what they would be doing if they hadn't attached
themselves to surf
- Fairly quiet bird, initially shy and very
- Unless they learn to mimic something or
someone who is noisy - then you have trouble!
- I knew one that mimicked a hen cockatiel - my
- The growling of "Wild-caught" birds when they
feel threatened in cages that have mesh on all sides
and people, esp. in Sale Rooms get too near, is well known and shows their
- Whatever you do - DON'T
SWEAR in front of your bird - it will pick this up faster than the words
you want it
to learn and they never seem to forget them and will use the obscenities at
the most inopportune times!!
- They are averse to change.
- If you add a toy, perch or change their
cage or Aviary they will be very suspicious of it and
it can take days, if not weeks for them to accept new things.
- They can get very stressed if you change
something and they really do not like it.
- You may not realise you have changed
anything sometimes and it's only when the bird starts to fret or pluck
you may realise that something is not either as it was or where it was.
- Unlike the Galah who accept most new
things and situations with apparent ease and almost indifference!!
- Ideally, provide a spacious flight with shelter - 12
x 6 x 6 ft is the minimum size Aviary.
- If you have an A. Grey in the House
- the CAGE must be big enough
for the bird to spread and
flap it's wings without hitting the
sides of the cage.
- The perches, whether in the Aviary or a Cage
must be of varying thickness to exercise the feet
and prevent Bumblefoot etc.,
article on Bumblefoot.
- The better cages have tops
that open so you can put a perch across the opening.
- This way the bird can sit at
a height it will feel happy with and can also climb in and out of it's cage
- It also has the added bonus
of allowing the bird to do it's droppings into it's cage rather than
on your floor or furniture.
- they are so clever, you can
in fact, train them to use their cages to "poop" into.
- If they have a drop-down
front door into the cage - you can use a clip to allow it to be held
as a Landing platform for the bird to come and go.
- In the summer your Pet Bird
will appreciate either being taken outside in it's cage or put into an
- If you do take your Pet out
make very sure you have a lock or Parrot-proof clip on the
- Also, do NOT put your Pet in a sunny
- make sure you keep them in
the shade, which is what they would seek in the Wild.
- You would never find a Bird
sitting in the Sun by Choice - it's a human thing!!
- Also, NEVER LEAVE THEM ON
THEIR OWN outside, as there are predators everywhere.
- From Domestic Cats, Hawks,
other Birds of Prey and Mink etc.,
- All could make a nasty met of
your Pet Bird.
- Aviaries should preferably be
made from Aluminium or steel and mesh rather than using wood.
- They will chew any wood they can get their
- You must therefore always provide them with
something to chew as it is necessary for their
mental well-being and helps keep their beak trimmed.
- Quite a destructive bird, thin mesh is a Big "No No" with these birds, they can
chew thru. almost anything - inc. your fingers if you stick them where
they are not wanted!
- Double, heavy-gauge, parrot-proof wiring a must. Esp. if you have other birds in an adjoining Aviary.
- Pet Birds must
be provided with plenty of stimulation in the form of non-destructive toys.
- You must always check that your choice of
cage hasn't got exposed zinc.
Some of the cheap imported ones are just
coated and the bird can chew the coating off and end up with
poisoning < (click on link to check symptoms of Zinc
- The same principle applies to Aviary mesh -
some of the cheaper imported mesh has "Blobs" of zinc still on the mesh and
the greys can easily ingest this as they do test EVERYTHING with their
- they must also have lots of human contact if
they are kept in a household.
- If you are going out try and leave a radio or
T.V. on for them.
- They love colourful things - so
CARTOONS are good to have on the TV or a music
- An ideal companion/distraction would be
another non-threatening, non-aggressive Pet Bird
in a separate cage in the same room.
- Be a bit careful if you let the 2 birds out
of their cages together in case the smaller bird is bullied.
- Really you should never leave any bird out
unsupervised - esp. if there is another Pet in the room i.e. a Dog or Cat!
Also, be aware of
fumes off Teflon Pans etc., if you let them out.
- Click on Links above ^ for further info:
- Good quality Parrot
seed mix - not too many sunflower seeds.
- Greys are fussy eaters and can take some time
to accept anything new or change in their diets.
- A lot of A. Greys, esp the Wild caught ones
will just pick out the Sunflower seeds and try to exist solely on these -
NOT A GOOD IDEA.
- If this is the case, then their health will
- They need a healthy and
varied diet you are doing them no favours to give into them and just
them eat Sunflower seeds.
- They love monkey nuts - feed in moderation.
- Ideally your Grey's diet should contain about
equal parts of seed, grain and vegetables and fruits.
- Dark green or dark orange vegetables and
fruits are naturally rich in iron, vits and minerals.
VITAMINS & MINERALS (A. Greys are naturally deficient
in Calcium and DO NEED supplementation)
- They require about a
dozen vitamins : A, D, E, K, B1, B2, Niacin, B6,B12,pantothenic Acid,
Folic Acid and Choline (.i.e. all the B. Vits)
- They can only
partially manufacture D3 and Niacin.
- D3 is necessary
to help provide their much needed calcium and is best fed with a
cod-liver oil supplement, as they work together to best effect.
- Along with the vitamins
listed above, Pet & Aviary Birds need trace amounts of some minerals to
maintain good health.
- Calcium, Phosphorus,
Sodium (salts) Chlorine, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper,
Sulphur, Iodine and Manganese.
- These can be
provided with a well balanced diet or supplemented with
"Daily essentials 3"
or similar + a Pro-biotic
once a week.
- Fruit and vegetables:
They love Sweetcorn, peas and grated carrot mixed
with egg food.
- sugar snap pea pods, papaya, almonds,
carrot, courgette (zucchini) , apple, banana, broccoli florets,
pomegranates (they love these) fresh or dried peppers, green beans,
spinach, Yams, Pear slices, Canteloupe melon slices, small chunks of
cheddar cheese and small pieces of cooked Chicken.
- Elderberry florets, Mountain Ash Berries, Cotoneaster berries, Eucalyptus
/willow cuttings + leaves, grass (freshly pulled) dandelion leaves, chickweed
and safe garden flowers such as busy lizzie, rose, marigold (tagetes)
(check they aren't poisonous first - DAFFODIL, CROCUS AND TULIPS are POISONOUS!!)
FOODstuffs (Click here for fuller list >
- Greys are NOT noted for
Bathing in a Dish provided.
- They will "paddle" and
dunk their heads in their water bowls and do enjoy being sprayed with a
hand-sprayer and will hang onto the front of their cage/Aviaries with
their wings spread to enjoy a "misting" of warm water.
- Aviary Birds do enjoy a
rain shower - so they must always have an area where they can get under
the elements as well as draft-proof shelters.
- Water on their feathers,
however, is crucial to the health of their plumage and it also settles
the feather dust - so it must be encouraged.
- Usually begins in spring but can occur at other times of the year.
- Breeding age starts around 4 - 5 years old.
- Hard wood nest box as ply wood won't last very long!
- A substantial Nest box size : approx.15" square 30" high.
- Clean shavings and pieces of wood for them to chew are adequate for them
to create their own nest box base-bedding.
- Chewing the wood helps to stimulate them into "Breeding mode".
- It is quite important to make sure that
perches are of a substantial size so that the birds foot sits over the top
- - it's not a good idea to have thin branches
that the bird's foot can wrap completely round
- Make sure the perches are securely fastened
to prevent movement during mating - which can lead to unsuccessful
- They do say that 2 adjacent perches are a
good idea - then the hen can perch on one and fasten her beak on the other
to help stablilse herself and help to ensure successful mating.
- They do say that ONE successful mating can
fertilise a full clutch of 3 eggs.
: is normally3
- EGGS LAID :
every 3rd day
- HATCHING : The
2nd and 3rd egg embryos are a little further on in their development, as
they continue to develop inside the egg inside the hen until they are laid.
- So the 2nd & 3rd egg may hatch only 2
days after the first one instead of 3 days.
- This means they are not too much bigger than
each other in the nest.
- As usually the bigger chicks can demand more
- The hen bird sits the eggs
- The cockbird will feed her while she is
sitting and often sit in with her.
Incubation - 28 days
Chicks Fledge - Around 10 -12weeks but still continue to be fed by the parents for weeks
First moult - Around
12 - 18 months old.
- Although, some do take longer to wean, they will beg for food for ages
after they really need it.
- So, it's really a case of playing things by ear to make sure the babies
don't suffer, physically or mentally.
- They should never move to a new home until they are fully independent.
- Age: Usually
ring them about 21/2
-3 weeks old.
- Ring Size :
- Most A. Greys
sit their eggs well but if this isn't the case then it's best if the eggs are
removed and put in Incubators.
- Most A. Greys will incubate
and rear their chicks no problem.
- Nest box cameras can help identify
any problems before the either chick gets to stage where it is beyond help.
- It must then be removed (carefully & safely)
- A lot of Breeders remove the
chicks approx 2 - 3 weeks of age to Hand rear.
- Usually just as the eyes are
- They let the parents do the
major part of the early work, which also helps boost the immune system as
well as fulfilling part of the parent birds' instincts to breed and feed.
- Keeping a close eye on them is the key and if the
parents start leaving the Nest box for extended periods, it's best to
remove the chicks and hand-rear, as they can easily get chilled, esp. if
the weather is cold and they don't have their parents to keep them warm.
- If a chick becomes chilled, it's metabolism slows
down and it's feed response suffers, so then it does not "beg"
for food and therefore the parents are not stimulated to feed it.
- It's a catch 22 situation - this is why it's best
to remove the chick(s).
- Make sure you warm the chick(s) through by putting
it in a pre-heated Brooder.
- This will help save it's life and also speed up
it's metabolic rate to help kick-start it's "feed response" when
you start to feed it.