Elvis is a 13 year old male Timneh African Grey parrot. He came to us as a PEAC foster bird in April of 2006 from owners who had health problems and felt they couldn’t care for him. When Elvis arrived, the woman who owned him looked around and said, “Oh, I hope he gets to stay here”. Almost immediately we fell in love with Elvis and I was pleased to be able to call the previous owners a few months later and report that we had adopted him. We send updates and pictures of Elvis to them and they plan to visit as soon as their health allows.
While his previous owners were emotionally invested in Elvis and loved him very much, they hadn’t the experience or understanding of how to meet his needs with regards to diet and enrichment. Elvis had spent the first 12 years of his life in an 18 inch square cage and he had a severe wing clip. The lack of exercise and extreme wing clip caused him to lose his balance and fall hard to the floor. When we would bring Elvis out of his cage we had to hold him close to our bodies to keep him from falling. We surrounded his play stand with pillows to provide soft landings when he fell. We were as careful as we could be with him while still allowing him opportunity to get out of his cage on a play stand and expose him to toys and new experiences.
It was a very slow progression and he broke countless blood feathers in the process. As Elvis gained strength, we would perch him on our finger and teach him to flap his wings while maintaining grip and balance. After only a few days of this practice, I heard Elvis in his cage one day saying, “Go, go, go; hang on Elvis, hang on.”
It took us well over a year, but I’m happy to report that today the pillows are gone from the living room and Elvis no longer drops like a rock to the floor. He has learned to maneuver his play stand but now when he is startled off, he will flap his wings to land on his feet. He eats a variety of fresh vegetables and sprouts along with pellets. His balance is improved and I have recently observed him hanging upside down from the top of his cage playing with a toy. He talks to us, often in proper context; saying “stop” when the dogs bark or “ready to go night, night” if it is past bedtime and his cage isn’t covered.
An African Grey Timneh is a smaller version of the African Grey Congo (nine to eleven inches from beak to tail and weighs between 275 and 400 grams – roughly two-thirds the size of the Congo). Their feathers are also darker and they sport a maroon tail, as opposed to the Congo's bright red tail. Another distinguishing feature of the Timneh is its lighter beak color on the top. Timnehs are very intelligent and social birds. Not only will they enjoy interacting with their human flock, they can be extremely sensitive to changes that may shake up their world. A Timneh is not a good choice for someone with an erratic lifestyle.
We are often asked if Timnehs have the same talking ability as Congos. Yes, they do though their voices have a more robotic sound. They also have great tonal range with no sound being spared. Your doorbell, telephone and microwave oven are all potential mimic targets for the Timneh. Good luck trying to tell the difference. The first summer we had Elvis, I came home and my neighbor was in her yard. She asked me, “Did you know one of your birds can imitate the ice cream truck?” Apparently her daughters were looking for the ice cream truck all afternoon only to find out the sound was coming from our house. We found out later it was Elvis.
-- By Bird Club members Kris and Jerry Porter