Home | Bird Species Profiles | The African Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) in the Wild: Natural History Notes on a Popular Pet

The African Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) in the Wild: Natural History Notes on a Popular Pet

Today I’d like to take a look at how this most desirable of parrot pets gets along in its natural habitat.


African GraysThe gray parrot may be found across the breadth of central Africa, along, above and below the equator, and on islands in the Gulf of Guinea.  The huge range extends from Guinea Bissau on the west coast to Cameroon and continues southeast to Kenya in East Africa and south to northern Angola.  Three subspecies have been described, but there are questions as to their validity.


The gray parrot is a bird of moist lowland forests and coastal mangrove swamps, but also forages in wooded savannahs and cultivated areas.  Flocks of up to 200 individuals roost together in very tall trees, preferably located in forest clearings or on small river or lake islands.  Tall forest-edge trees are also utilized.

Feeding Behavior

Flocks of African gray parrots depart for their feeding grounds earlier than do most birds, flying very high and fast while calling loudly.  The parrots take regular routes to and from favored feeding grounds, and stay to the uppermost branches of the trees while foraging.  They tend to climb rather than hop or fly from branch to branch when feeding.  Gray parrots are difficult to approach when feeding, and very shy in general.

Oil palm nuts are a favored food, but a wide variety of other nuts, fruits, seeds and berries are taken.  They are rarely observed on the ground, but flocks in West Africa sometimes raid maize fields.  This, along with the reported presence of quartz in the stomach of some individuals, indicates that they may leave the treetops on occasion.


The breeding season apparently varies in accordance with local conditions, as eggs have been reported in March, June and July through September in different regions.  Gray parrots favor nest cavities that are located 90 feet or more above the ground.  Suitable nest sites are likely a major limiting factor on population levels.

Population Status

Wild populations are everywhere in decline due to deforestation and collection for export.  The gray parrot is considered to be “Near Threatened” by the IUCN and is listed on Appendix II of Cites.

An article on the habits and status of gray parrots in the wild is posted at:



  1. avatar

    breeding time

  2. avatar


  3. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. African Grays almost always require a large Outdoor Aviary or bird room if they are to breed. A wooden nest box (14x14x22 inches) or, if possible, a hollow bough or stump, makes a good nest site. Pairs will show interest in breeding by age 2-3, but females will usually not produce eggs until they are at least 6 years old.

    There have been some results in large cages, but this is not usual…I’ll mention your question on a Twitter post today and see if we hear from some other parrot keepers.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Very interesting information you have there, and lots of fine work it seems – Years ago, I learned a great deal about keeping quail and pheasants from co-workers who were experienced in breeding chickens…I’ll keep your info on hand and refer readers when the opportunity arises.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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