Budgie parakeets > Talking birds > African gray parrot

African gray parrot

There has always been a decided difference of opinion among parrot fanciers as to what variety of parrot shows the highest degree of intelligence, the best memory, and is most desirable ; but it is generally conceded that the honors are about equally divided between the African Gray and the Mexican Double Yellow Head. The ability to remember a large vocabulary of words and sentences is possessed by both of these birds. The African Gray, however, has special ability in whistling, while the Mexicari Double Yellow Head is an indifferent whistler, but is decidedly superior in singing.

There are comparatively few African Gray parrots brought to this country, and they usually bring a high price. It is a very handsome bird, with shiny, ashen gray plumage, the tail being brown when the bird is quite young, but after the nrst moult it becomes bright red, making it de­cidedly showy. The gray of the plumage is some­what varied, being darker along the wings. The feathers lie smoothly along the body, and while it is of about the same size and weight as the Mexican Double Yellow Head, still it appears somewhat smaller.
These parrots are found in several parts of Africa, but are the most frequently seen in the wild state along the central western coast, where they are found in great numbers in the forests along the rivers. They are sometimes imported on sailing vessels, direct to this country, most of them being landed at New York City, althollgh there are occasional lots which arrive at New Orleans, Pensacola and other ports. For some reason, parrots brought over on steamers are never healthy, and usually die within a few weeks.

Occasionally there are birds of this species which have red feathers on the back as well as a red tail, and these are known as King parrots, and always command a higher price.

There is no question but that the gray parrot has been known longer than any other variety, and it is highly probable that they were known to the Jews in the time of Solomon, as we find it related that his ships in conjunction with those of Hiram, visited the famous land of Ophir, from whence they brought home many curiosities, in­cluding "apes and peacocks." Modern commen­tators almost without exception translate this Hebrew word as "parrots" instead of "peacocks." We also find that in the time of Alexander the Great these parrots were kept in captivity. In A.D. 1500 we read that a certain parrot in Rome supposed to be of this species was sold for 100 gold pieces (about $500), being purchased, by a cardinal, it being so highly valued, owing to its astonishing memory, as it had learned to repeat clearly and without hesitation the whole of the Apostle's Creed.

These gray parrots seem to have the faculty of more clearly articulating sounds than any other class of birds.
If these parrots are taken from the nest when quite young, and fed by hand, they become quite tame and docile, but the trapped birds are very untractahle, wild, treacherous and cross, and their voices are loud and discordant. Gray par­rots are quite sociable in disposition; they seem to enjoy having another parrot near them, even if it is not of the same species, nor kept in the same cage. Where they are kept alone their mistress should he as friendly as possible with them. It is a lamentable fact that so many of this breed of parrot die shortly after being im­ported, but when they are once thoroughly ac­climated, and have been about a year in this
country, they are one of the most hardy birds that can be imagined, frequently being kept in captivity for twenty-five to fifty or more years. In fact there is no variety of parrots known to be longer lived except the macaws.

It was formerly supposed that only the male birds could learn to talk, but post-mortem ex­amination on a large number of these birds has proved that the females were of equal ability, both in talking and singing, and it is impossible to tell the sex while alive unless the bird should lay an egg.

On Prince's Island, on the west coast of Af­rica, there is a very lofty mountain, reaching abont 12.000 feet above sea level, called by the natives "Pico de Papagaio," or Peak of the Par­rots. The sides of this mountain are covered with a magnificent forest of tropical trees, over­grown with a luxuriant growth of climbing plant. Here the parrots are found in immense numbers, making their nests in the hollows of trees, depositing four or five eggs on the bare wood, without any nesting material. It is said that the male and female birds take turns in sit­ting on the nest. Lofty trees with widespreading branches are their favorite haunts for sleeping purposes, and to these they resort in immense flocks every evening, winging their flight from various directions.

When in captivity they make excellent pets, but they are inclined to be somewhat restless, and should always be supplied with something to play with. There is nothing they seem to like better than to gnaw at a piece of soft wood like soft pine or poplar, but do not give them hard wood, which is apt to make sharp splinters and injure the tongue. They also enjoy playing with an ear of corn, and pick the kernels out, one by one, even when they are not hungry.

A gray parrot, as a rule, is quite affectionate, and forms deep attachments to those whom it considers its friends. Thev are apt also to form decided aversions or enmities to certain persons who have offended them in some way.

When quite young, these birds are often, fed dry bread or toast soaked in boiled milk, and it seems to be good for them, but the older par­rots usually have a decided aversion to milk and much prefer a seed diet of hemp, sunflower, corn, etc. After they are well acclimated they should have plenty of fresh water in the cage. They seem to drink more frequently than most other parrots.

Some of these parrots can be taught numerous tricks, and will at the word of command, turn a somersault, dance, ruffle up their feathers, and do various other antics, which would go to prove that they understand what is said to them.