There are two types of grey parrot kept as pet birds; the more common African grey, sometimes called the 'Congo' African grey and the smaller Timneh grey. Timneh refers to the West African islands which are part of this bird's range. Although grey parrots come from West African countries, most 'pet' birds are now bred in captivity. These birds are well-known for their remarkable abilities to mimic sounds including replicating human speech.

Are the two types separate species?

The two types of grey are currently said to be closely related to each as other as subspecies. But this may change and they may soon be considered as separate species. When seen together they are quite distinct from one another.

The African grey is nearly a third bigger than the Timneh being around 33cm (13in) in length. All adult African greys have a vivid red tail; immature birds' tails are also red, but with a dull brownish band near the tip. The beak is all black. An immature bird's eyes are dark when only a few weeks old but this turns to pale grey and finally a straw-coloured yellow by the time the bird is a year old.

The smaller Timneh is about 25cm (1O in) in length, usually a darker grey, but the tail is always a very dark red, almost black colour. The Timneh's beak is mainly black but it has a pale horn-coloured patch on the top bill. Like the African grey, the Timneh's eyes change colour during their first year of life. They start out very dark, changing to pale grey, finally becoming yellow in the adult, but this is a slightly paler, sometimes greenish-yellow compared with the adult African grey's straw-coloured eyes.

The natural habitat of grey parrots is lowland tropical rainforest. The population of the Timneh grey is much smaller than that of the African grey and the Timneh is found to the western end of the bird's complete range. They can be found throughout their range in dense forest or at the edges of the forest close to farmed land where they may feed on farmed crops. The birds are secretive in their habits and difficult to see except when flying overhead between feeding and roosting sites.


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