We have one African grey parrot, Minnow, born in 1995. He came here to the Zoo in 1998. African greys are well known for their ability to mimic sounds and words, and Minnow is no exception. Minnow is quite the personality and a big favorite with Zoo staff — he has even learned to mimic some of their voices.
The African grey is not considered endangered, but is considered threatened by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Unfortunately, the African grey parrot has become popular in the pet trade due to its attractive colors and unbelievable talent to mimic sounds and words. It is in the top three most commonly traded birds. Due to such a large demand, baby greys are stolen from the wild to supply the demand. The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES which includes most parrots — endangered or threatened.
The Congo African grey is found in Equatorial Africa, ranging from Angola to The Ivory Coast, inland from Kenya to Tanzania. It inhabits rainforests, cultivated land, mangroves, wooded savannas and gardens.
The diet of the African grey parrot consists of the fruits, seeds, nuts and berries of several native rainforest species, including the flesh of oil-palm trees. Its powerful bill can crush most seeds and nuts.
Greys are extremely social and will form a communal nesting area of several hundred. They have been observed roosting in tall palms in groups ranging from several hundred to thousands of birds.
African greys have a powder produced by feather on their flanks that helps to clean and protect their feathers. This powder also makes their feathers waterproof, a necessary adaptation for surviving in a tropical climate.
African greys can commonly be seen in the wild on the ground at waterholes where they ingest mud and minerals. This is thought to be an adaptation to compensate for increased pesticide and toxin levels in their food – the soil eaten absorbs the toxins that they would otherwise ingest.