(By Diane Richards)
Malika came to live with me in March 2006. She was living with a lady who’d bought her so
she wouldn’t have to go into a breeding program again. Malika is a Congo African Grey. She
will be 19 years old this year and has been a breeder most of her life. She is now retired
and, might I add, spoiled rotten.
This sweet bird is blind and has been from birth. She has no sight at all, does not see
even the brightest beam of light. This does not affect her daily routine, playing with toys,
chewing up toys and flapping outstretched wings to the point of taking off and hovering a few
seconds and then landing back in the middle of my bed (not always gracefully).
Malika does not talk in human language, prefers several different squeaks, peeps, clicks
(Grey sounds) and whistling to get my attention. She will whilstle once, which I don’t
acknowledge but, when she does two notes, I will go to her and either take her out or at least
acknowledge her calling. If I’m busy and call to her to hold on, she will sometimes wait and
other times will burst out whistling over and over till I stop what I’m doing and go to her.
This little girl is the sweetest, most gentle and loving bird. She loves to be held, get kisses
on the head, scratches and tickles, and will often lay with me watching TV for hours. What a wonderful
blessing she is!
General Congo African Grey:
The African Grey Parrot is a medium-sized parrot about 12 inches/30cm long (Congo subspecies) of
the genus Psittacus, native to Africa. As the name implies, the African Grey parrot is predominantly
grey, with accents of white and a red or maroon tail depending on the subspecies. African Grey parrots,
like all parrots, are zygodactyl, having 4 toes on each foot, two towards the front and two towards the
back. They feed primarily on nuts and fruits supplemented by leafy matter.
While comparative judgments of animal intelligence are always very difficult to make objectively,
Psittaciformes are generally regarded as being amongst the most intelligent of birds. African Grey
parrots are particularly noted for their cognitive abilities which are believed to have evolved as a
consequence of their history of cooperative feeding on the ground in central Africa.
African Grey parrots captured in the wild need time and effort to adapt to human presence, and have
a tendency to growl. Hand-fed African Grey parrots generally make wonderful and very affectionate companions.
Pet owners often refer to their relationship with them as being "like having a five-year-old child." They are
generally thought to be the best mimics of all parrots. Anyone considering getting an African Grey parrot as
a pet should note that they quickly become bored unless provided with stimulating toys and interaction with
their owners. Their life spans are 40+ years in captivity.
There are two subspecies:
Congo African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) and Timneh African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus
timneh). Congo African Grey parrots (CAGs) are larger birds with light grey feathers, bright red tails and
black beaks. The other subspecies, Timneh African Grey parrots (TAGs), are smaller in size, have a darker
charcoal grey coloring, a dark maroon tail, and a light horn colored beak. A few authors recognize a third
subspecies, Ghana African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus princeps) which is similar to CAGs, but darker
and slightly smaller.