African Gray Parrot

African Gray Parrot

Scientific Classification

Common Name
African gray parrot
Psittacidae (true parrots)
Genus Species
Psittacus (parrot) erithacus (a solitary bird which can be taught to speak)

Fast Facts

The male African gray looks similar to the female, but becomes darker with age.
Females have a pale gray crown with dark gray edges (giving a scaly look), a gray body and scarlet tail feathers. The skin around the eye is naked and the beak is black.
Approximately 33 cm (13.2 in.)
Approximately 400 g (14 oz.)
Includes fruit, seeds, buds, nectar, and pollen; occasionally insects or other meat will be eaten
28 days
Clutch Size
2 to 4 eggs
Fledging Duration
12 weeks
Sexual Maturity
4 to 7 years
Life Span
50+ years
No data
No data
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

The African gray parrot is monogamous, nesting solitarily in a tree with a hole for her eggs.

One defense mechanism is fluffing up to look larger and biting.

The African gray is considered to be one of the most accomplished mimics. Parrots, when raised by humans, show an amazing ability to mimic people and noisy objects, but in the wild they have never been observed mimicking.

One of the most famous African grays is Alex. Dr. Irene Pepperberg has studied animal behavior and animal-human communications since 1977. She currently works with 3 African gray parrots. Alex, the oldest, can count, identify objects, shapes, colors, and materials, knows the concepts of same and different, and even tells the lab assistants what to do in order to modify his environment!

Because large parrots live so long, and may outlive their owners, it is often necessary for owners to put the birds in their wills.

Ecology and Conservation

The parrot plays an important role in its habitat by helping to propagate the forest. Because not all of the seeds consumed are digested, many are passed in the bird's guano over new areas of the forest. Some species eat nectar and are important in the pollination of many species of plants in the tropical forests.

Irene Pepperberg's work with Alex has sparked new studies suggesting parrot intelligence parallels that of chimpanzees and dolphins unlike many other bird species. Currently, The Alex Foundation is conducting research in various regions of Africa to fully comprehend the abilities, adaptations, and pressures facing African grays in the wild.

Unfortunately, the African gray parrot has become popular in the pet trade due to their attractive colors and unbelievable talent to mimic sounds and words. Due to such a large demand, baby grays are being stolen from the wild to supply the demand.

The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES which includes most parrots, endangered or threatened.


Forshaw, J.M. Parrots of the World. New Jersey. T.F.H. Publications Inc. 1978.

Marrison, C. and A. Greensmith. Birds of the World. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc. 1993.

Parker, Sybil P. (ed.). Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Birds II. Vol. 8. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1972.

Perrins, C. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Publications. 1985.