African Grey Parrot

Psittacus erithacus

African Grey Parrots occur naturally in the moist, lowland forests of western and central Africa, especially Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya and Angola. Due to their gentle nature, intelligence, and ability to mimic human speech, these medium-sized parrots are popular pets. They can live up to 70 years in captivity.

The African Grey Parrot is the world’s third most commonly traded wild bird species. This high demand for the pet trade has led to significant trapping of wild birds and has seriously jeopardized the species’ survival in its native habitat. As a result, importation of wild-caught African Grey Parrots into the U.S. is prohibited under the U.S. Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. In addition, wild African Grey Parrot populations are suffering from habitat loss in many parts of Africa due to clearing of native forest.

Did You Know?

African Grey Parrots can live up to 70 years in captivity.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Significant Cause for Concern

Pet African grey parrots are either wild-caught or raised in captive-breeding facilities. Large numbers of wild birds are captured each year for the pet trade and native populations are believed to be declining. Due to this threat of extinction, international agreements restrict the trade and importation of wild-caught African grey parrots. Wild caught birds are not legally sold in the U.S.

One way to identify a captive-bred parrot is to check for a closed (seamless) leg band. These bands can only be placed on baby birds that are less than three weeks old. Sometimes, however, wild parrot babies are stolen from nests and banded, so the presence of a leg band does not guarantee that a bird was captive-bred. Thus, even with a leg band, there is no safe way to assure that a bird was captive bred. For more information on parrot leg bands click here.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet African grey, we recommend that you buy a bird with a closed (seamless) leg band. Closed leg bands have to be placed on baby birds before they are three weeks old, and so are usually a good indicator that the bird is captive-bred.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Little Cause for Concern

There is no evidence that African Grey Parrots pose a threat to native wildlife as an invasive species.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Significant Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

African grey parrots are long lived and intelligent, and as pets they require a significant amount of special attention and care for the long term (45-50 years). Captive birds are highly vulnerable to self-destructive behaviors such as feather plucking. African grey parrots also commonly suffer from nutritional deficiencies when not fed a proper diet, which can lead to illness and death.

Large numbers of wild-caught African grey parrots are believed to die during capture and transport. There is no oversight to ensure the health and well being of birds transported and traded illegally.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before you purchase a pet African grey ask for proof that it was captive-bred. Be sure to research its specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

African grey parrots rarely carry pathogens of concern to humans including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Encephalitozoon bieneusi. African grey parrots may also carry the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci that causes psittacosis, or parrot fever. Psittacosis is less common in the U.S., but can be transmitted from birds to humans and is a potentially life-threatening disease.

Illegally imported birds may harbor diseases such as avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and hemoparasites, of risk to native wildlife and domestic birds.

 

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet bird, ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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