Understanding African Greys' Behavior and Personality

Published: 14th May 2009
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Strangely enough for a bird who tends to have such a big tendency to be fearful and neurotic, the African Grey possesses the most stable temperament in the psittacide world. As much as he can prove to be rather unruly when he is young, further down the line when he reaches maturity hiss temperament becomes calm and thoughtful. In contrast to other parrots, the Grey does not have the inclination to change his personality or behavior during the mating season, which is in my opinion a very big point in his favor.

In that respect you'll alos be glad to learn about the African Grey's mating call, or rather the lack thereof. In fact, this parrot does not really have a recognizable mating call per se, which is good news for the heat of spring - when hormones are raging and most parrots are screaming. However sound-wise they can still drive you crazy: African Greys can make their imitation of the microwave oven beep or other electrical appliance every bit as maddening as a repetitive mating call!

Even though they are less popular, Timneh African parrots have a less sullen character than their Congo cousins. They tend to be less nervous and more rebellious, and also more inclined to do silly things to attract their audience's attention or simply to have fun.


The more intelligent an animal is, the more he is at risk of developing behavioral problems, and as you know, the African Grey is extremely intelligent! For example, only attention-hungry Cockatoos engage in more severe feather plucking than Greys do, so their sensitivity has to be taken into account to avoid similar excesses.

Due largely to his sensitive nature and to his impressive intelligence, the African Grey can react in a very negative way to a clumsy educator or to a coercing training session. This is why training African Greys should never imply forcing them to do what they do not want to, otherwise it is practically certain they will develop a phobic behavior.

Greys only learn through positive reinforcement, therefore educating a Grey should draw more from child pedagogy than from dog training principles.


Socialization is a very important consideration when rehoming an African Grey parrot.

In your first days with an African Grey, he will start to weave a very strong link with his perceived partner (be it another bird or a human) and will become totally devoted to him or her. He can become possessive with the latter and aggressive towards their entourage, and even be jealous of his favorite human so much that he will reject all the other members of the family, including other pets.

A good socialization can prevent that problem. Greys are the most gregarious of all parrots and need to feel accepted as full members of their social group (or human family). On the contrary, lack of socialization in his early days could turn your feathered friend into a neurotic adult parrot.

In a word, even if you try to socialize your bird as much as you can (and you should), remember that as they are distrusting, shy and anxious by nature, Greys will not very sociable towards strangers, and in general will not get along with children.

The bottom line

In contrast to what is often heard, the African Grey is a very affectionate bird. In his early childhood, when your Grey has not yet developed a high level of mistrust, it is necessary to handle him often and to let him live safe "adventures", like seeing different places in the house, or meeting different people and realizing they're not a threat. Teaching him early on that biting is not a means to communicate will also help. After this stage, your Grey will become a lot more ready to accept new humans and new objects in his familiar environment.

Laurene Arroyo is a long-time parrot enthusiast. Learn more about theafrican grey parrot and sign up for her FREE Parrot Care mini-course by visiting http://ParrotBirdCenter.com/african-grey-trust

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