Latin name: Psittacus erithacus

The African Grey is almost certainly the most intelligent non-mammalian creature known to exist. Recent studies suggest that the birds not only know how to communicate, but can also be taught rudimentary concepts.

Adult African Grey parrots are about 30 cm long from beak to tail. The head is light grey, with a black beak and lighter circles around golden eyes. The body itself is a darker grey. Like most parrots, it is impossible for even expert aviculturists to tell for certain which is male and which is female from observation alone. This used to be determined with some strategic probing (and not even for certain, then), but now it can also be done with a DNA test.

In the wild, African Greys are very social animals, and usually flock together in groups of 100 to 200 birds. Anyone wishing to own a Grey as a pet should be warned that they will need to provide daily attention to the bird if they want it to grow up healthy. And with lifespans of upwards of 70 years, any maladjusted bird will be a major pain. African Greys eat nuts, carrots, and fruit, and also parrot chow, if they are kept as pets.

The intelligence of the African Grey is renowned. My parents have an Amazonian Red-Lored, and their friends have a Grey. The red-lored parrot can only be taught to whistle, and it requires a certain amount of repitition before it can pick up any tune. Their friends' Grey learned by itself how to simulate one half of a telephone conversation: "Hello? Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, OK bye." Unfortunately, with great intelligence comes great insecurity, as the birds are known to be more neurotic than other parrots, which are generally an obsessive species. If you get an African Grey as a pet, be prepared to deal with a wild animal that has the brain of a 5-year old.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg at the University of Arizona thinks that Greys have much more mental capacity than simply parroting what others say. She has taught her birds to count and identify objects by shape, color, and composition, and has even taught them to understand concepts such as "same" and "different". The birds also seem to know how to communicate to Pepperburg and her grad students in meaningful phrases(i.e."wanna go back" when they're bored with being tested), although most evidence for this is anecdotal, and not easy to test.

Thanks to
Some good links to Dr. Pepperberg's research can be found at

The African Grey is a parrot who is just that: from Africa and primarily grey.
It is usually a darker grey on its head, back and wings, and lighter elsewhere,
with a short, scarlet tail.
African greys come in three main varieties, the Congo African Grey (CAG),
the Western African Grey (WAG), and the Timneh African Grey (TAG), the main differences
between them being that the Timneh has a maroon tail and a red-tinged beak,
and the Western is a smaller version of the Congo, both of which have tails brighter red
than the Timneh.
African Greys are known as the best talkers of the birds, and are estimated to have
the intelligence of a 5-year-old human.
The most famous Grey is Alex, who has appeared in numerous documentaries with
his trainer, Dr. Irene Pepperberg.

Queen Victoria ("We are not amused.") had an African Grey who was brought to her from Nigeria when it was a British colony. The bird's name was Coco and it was a male. Coco had a documented vocabulary of over one thousand words which is a larger vocabulary than many children had in Victorian England. It is not known if Coco, unlike Alex the Great, could recognize colors and objects. Coco outlived Victoria. I can only speculate if he, like my friend Ade' the African Grey, would occasionally say, " I'll outlive you all!"

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