African Greys
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The Poiciphalus Family - African Greys

These birds come from Africa and are characterized by a stocky build, short, blunt tail and a relatively large, sharp beak. This includes the beloved African Greys, and their cousins the Red-bellied parrot, the Senegal parrot, and the Meyers parrot. There are others in this genus but I am not familiar enough with them to talk about them.
            The African Greys are called the "Einsteins" of the bird world, so much so, that they have been studied by universities. They are well known for their astounding mimicry of both sounds and speech - likely the best of all avian species. Studies have shown that these birds actually understand language as well as numbers. The IQ's of some Greys have been equated with that of a 5-year-old child, but with the emotional capabilities closer to that of a 2-year-old. At the moment I am babysitting a Grey called Rico that I hand-raised who now lives with a married couple. The husband has a very deep rich voice and his wife has a shrill feminine pitch. Rico carries on conversations between the two of them, mimicking their intonations exactly. It's quite bizarre. Sometimes when he is talking, I will forget that his owners are away on vacation and not in the room with me. So beware; don't go telling your African Grey your secrets. Greys can even mimic the sounds of any electronic equipment. They can make the sound of your telephone, your computer, your microwave, etc., and they will play games with you, say for instance if you pick up the phone to make a call, they will make the sound when you press the buttons. They do this to totally confuse you so you have to start over again.

African grey parrots

African Greys - Mr. & Mrs, Grey

            Greys come in two species: the Congos which are more popular than their cousins, the Timneh African Grey. As their name suggests, they are both grey in color, the Congo being a silvery grey and the Timneh being a charcoal grey. The Congo is a larger bird with a bright red tail; whereas, the Timneh sports a more subdued maroon tail. In the past, where they might have dismissed their colors as boring, owners now grow to love their smoky tones.
            There is not much that I can say about their cons. In general, Greys are shy birds and for the most part are very quiet. However, they are known to be nervous and skittish, and will squawk madly when scared, as they attempt to flee from perceived danger. I find that they will do this whenever something new or foreign is brought by their cage. It could be something as mundane as an empty box or an air conditioner filter. The only other fault that I find with them is that like Cockatoos, Greys emit an almost powdery, silky dust from their feathers as an added bonus besides the regular feather and dander problems associated with all birds, which can be exceedly detrimental to people who suffer from allergies.

red bellied parrots

Male Red-Bellied Parrot - "Money Penny"

           Now for the other birds that I mentioned in the Poicephalus family, that of the Red-bellied Parrot, the Senegal Parrot and the Meyers parrot - I am going to group them as one, as they are so similar in size and personalities. The real difference between them is in their coloration. I own all three of them, but at the moment my Senegals are living at my friend's house. I tell a very compassionate story in my book about a Red-bellied Parrot that I used to own called "Baby Bunny." I also tell why he was named that.
            The major down side to these birds is that they go through a very "nippy" stage which ends after about two years of age. If one can have the patience to wait out the time and handle a few bites, (Yeah, right - make sure to have a few Band-aids ready), then I find that they have all the attributes of being a perfect bird, in that they are a small parrot who is quiet unless frightened or provoked, who is playful and cuddly, who has the ability to talk very well, who bonds well with people while still maintaining their ability to entertain them self when they are left alone. In fact, they have a wonderful personality. So, come on now, who could ask for more?

Female Red-Bellied Parrot

Female Red-Bellied Parrot - "Nellie"

Meyers Parrot

Meyers Parrot

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Suzanne Hosang Author and Healer