By David De Hetre from Lawrence, KS, USA, United States (gray bird Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By David De Hetre from Lawrence, KS, USA, United States (gray bird Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Psittacus erithacus
Order: Psittaciformes

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • With psitticines in general, the bigger the cage you can have, the better. These intelligent birds need a highly stimulating environment to live in (but not stressful) so larger cages provide more opportunities for exercise and exploration. Do not use any galvanized metal for cages as this can cause zinc toxicity. Some bird cages not designed for parrots may be made of galvanized metal but since parrots chew and use their beaks to climb, they could accidentally ingest zinc from the galvanizing process.
  • Provide a variety of perching opportunities, ideally with a variety of surfaces and diameters to keep feet healthy.
  • Natural light is nice for parrots, if available.

Diet Requirements

  • Zoo Atlanta feeds Harrison's parrot pellet, sun flower seeds, and fresh produce daily.

Veterinary Concerns

  • African greys often have naturally sharp keels so keep that in mind when doing body condition checks.
  • If your bird cannot fly due to lack of muscles, keeping wings full can help the bird have a softer landing if he jumps off of something.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Need a lot of enrichment! Soak rawhide and wrap peanuts or other treats while it is pliable, wait until dry and give as a treat. Parrot safe bird toys, rolled up newspaper, phone books, large balls that can not be damaged/ingested, rearrange perching.
  • Training ideas for husbandry:
    • Voluntary nail trims can be done with a protected contact setting and a dremel
    • Towel training can be a good way to reduce stress during exams
    • Stepping onto a scale. A scale with a perch is a good option for macaws because they have such a long tail.
    • Bathtime can be great enrichment.
  • African Greys are very vocal so capturing vocalzatiosn on cue can happen very quickly.

Programmatic Information

Tips on Presentation

  • Parrots can be presented in a variety of ways - on the hand, on a handheld t-perch, on a floor or table top perch or in cases where birds learned to fly at a young age, they can be flown as part of a demonstration.

Tips on Handling

  • Keep handling a positive experience by always offering reinforcement for stepping up. Be sure to identify a suitable reinforcer before this happens.
  • At the Seneca Park Zoo we present our African Grey on both our hand and on perches for programs. We never let our parrots onto shoulders because we can not see their behavior if there.
  • Look for "pinning" or "flashing" pupils as this can be a sign that the bird it getting overly excited. Other behaviors such as a parallel back and slicked feathers are also a sign of excitement. This excitement could be positive or negative so always be aware of the environment you are in when these types of behavior occur.
  • To avoid getting bit, watching for precursors is extremely important. Reddening cheek pads, slowly bobbing heads, feathers rasied, head dipped downward, wings out-stretched, lunging foward, can all be signs that the bird would like you to move away. By doing so you teach your bird that they can politely ask you to leave, and they do not need to bite you to get you to do so.
  • When presenting a hand to ask the bird to step-up, present it outside of "striking" range, or the radius the bird can reach to bite you. Bring your hand closer only when body language tells you the bird would like to step-up.

Potential Messaging

  • Longevity makes them a challenging pet for most people
  • Seed dispersers
  • Drop feeders

Acquisition Information

  • Local parrot rescues can be great places to start. By sending a knowledgable keeper to choose the right bird for your situaiton, you can get a great, older bird for your program

Comments from the Rating System

  • Downtown Aquarium, Denver: Birds can be shy, especially in large groups. Take a lot of time and training sessions (and the right bird) to be successful.
  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Can pair-bond with staff if not monitored; maintain multiple handlers to curb aggression due to bonding.
  • Seneca Park Zoo: Very good program animal, but tends to have a low amount of handlers. Behavioral problems can arise if not properly cared for.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Physical Description

Life Cycle


Threats and Conservation Status

Did you know…


Contributors and Citations

  • Zoo Atlanta