P. erithacus erithacus
Description: African Grey Parrot has a simple colour scheme: the body plumage is grey, but this varies in shade from region to region and males are usually darker than females. The feathers of the head and neck are margined with very pale grey: the rump is so pale a grey as to be almost white, and the tail and adjacent tail coverts are scarlet. The beak is black and the iris is pale yellow. The feet are dark grey and the bare skin surrounding the eye is white. Length: 33 cm (13 in). Weight: about 320 g (11 oz).
Immature birds have the tail darker red and the iris dark grey.
Several Albino Grey Parrots have been described, in which the tail is red, in brilliant contrast to the white plumage. The eyes are pinkish red and the feet and beak light coloured.
One occasionally sees Greys which have areas of pink feathering and very many birds have a few pink feathers scattered throughout the plumage. However, D. Seth-Smith (1921) noted that Jean Delacour had acquired a Grey which was entirely pink, apart from a few feathers in the body and the quills, which were grey. What must surely be the same bird was described in Avicultural Magazine (1922) as:
... like a flamingo, each feather being bright pink with a lighter pink edge. The tail is crimson, the head light pink and white, the eyes and feet dark. She laid five eggs while with me last year....
Some Grey Parrots with pink feathers in the plumage moult out normally.
Range/Habitat: The nominate race inhabits equatorial Africa from the south-eastern part of the Ivory Coast to western Kenya and northern Angola, the Congo and north-western Tanzania. Lowland forest is the major habitat of Grey Parrots. They are common in some areas and are even said to be extending their range in eastern Africa, while in other areas their numbers are decreasing due to habitat destruction. They are wary, seldom allowing a close approach. Their diet consists of seeds, fruits, berries and nuts, palm nuts being a favorite item.
P. e. timneh
Description: This race is very distinct having the upper mandible reddish, tipped with black, is slightly smaller and has the tail dull dark red.
Range/Habitat: Sierra Leone, southern Guinea, Liberia and the Ivory Coast is the range of timneh.
P. e. princeps
Description: The race princeps was separated on account of its darker plumage. However, it is virtually indistinguishable from the nominate race.
Range/Habitat: It is found on only two islands, in the Gulf of Guinea: S. Tome and Principe. This race is classified as endangered and listed on Appendix I of CITES. However, Abbe R. de Naurois, who lived on Principe until 1973, did not consider it to be endangered. Much of the island had been deforested early in the twentieth century; deforestation had not been serious in recent years (de Naurois, pers. comm., 1983).
A-viculture: The Grey Parrot is renowned for its talking ability; in mimicking the human voice, it has no rival among parrots. Not only can it acquire an extensive vocabulary of words, but it reproduces them with such accuracy of tone and accent that the teacher can be identified. The Grey Parrot, along with the Indian Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa), and, to a lesser degree, certain members of the crow family, are the best known talking birds. Mynahs, which speak with great clarity, have the edge over Grey Parrots as talking birds, because they exhibit no signs of shyness, showing off their repertoire in strange places and for unknown people. A Grey Parrot will rarely oblige under such circumstances, being at its best when it is completely relaxed and in its own home.