Unlike other parrots, wild African Greys are quite intelligent and have been documented imitating the calls of several other species. Dr. Irene Pepperberg's research with captive African Greys has scientifically demonstrated that they possess the ability to associate simple human words with meanings, and to intelligently apply the abstract concepts of shape, colour, number, zero-sense, etc.

According to Pepperberg and other ornithologists, they perform many cognitive tasks at the level of dolphins, chimpanzees, and even human toddlers.

Many pet Congo African Greys learn to speak in their second or third year. Timnehs are generally observed to start speaking earlier.  Both subspecies seem to have the same ability and tendency to produce human speech, but vocal ability and inclination may range widely among individual birds.

One notable African Grey is N'kisi, who in 2004 was said to have a vocabulary of over 950 words and was noted for creative use of language. For example, when Jane Goodall visited N'kisi in his New York home, he greeted her with "Got a chimp?" because he'd seen pictures of her with chimpanzees in Africa.

A study published in 2011, led by Dr. Dalila Bovet of Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, demonstrated that African Grey parrots were able to coordinate and collaborate with each other to an extent. They were able to solve problems set by scientists—for example, two birds could pull strings at the same time in order to obtain food. In another example, one bird stood on a perch in order to release a food-laden tray, while the other pulled the tray out from the test apparatus. Both would then feed. The birds in question were observed waiting for their partners to perform the necessary actions so that their behaviour could be synchronized. It was also noted that the parrots appeared to express individual preferences as to which of the other birds (partners) they would rather work with.

Their sociability and intelligence make African Grey parrots excellent pets. However, the same qualities mean that African Greys require a special commitment by their owners to provide frequent one-on-one interaction and supervised time out of their cage. They must be kept entertained and busy with people and toys or they may become stressed and develop self-destructive behavior. African Greys require large cages, a varied diet that includes fresh foods, and plenty of safe and destructible toys. If not provided with these items, African Greys quickly develop unpleasant behaviours and may eventually develop health problems such as feather-plucking that are difficult to remedy.

Even the healthiest, happiest pet African Grey will generate a fair amount of mess and noise. Like most parrots, they are non-domesticated, and even a well-socialized, hand-raised, aviary-bred bird is only one or two generations removed from its wild predecessor. Despite this, there is a long recorded history of African Greys being kept by the ancient Greeks, wealthy Roman families, King Henry VIII, Portuguese sailors, and others.

Below is a video of Alex (1976 – September 6, 2007), an African Grey Parrot and the subject of a thirty-year (1977–2007) experiment by animal psychologist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, initially at the University of Arizona and later at Harvard University and Brandeis University.


African Greys have strong flock instincts. The significance of the flock to our Greys can be used to ease assimilation of our new African Grey with other birds.

In cases of assimilating an older Grey that had a “difficult” history, there was a case study where a 4-year-old female Grey assimilated successfully into its new surroundings. This female Grey was nervous and fearful, did not much like humans, could not be handled, would not eat anything but seed, and did not know how to play with toys. Since she had not previously developed a real bond of trust with a human, she presented a special challenge. It could have taken months to develop trust from this bird. However, by using their flock instinct the caretaker allowed the other Greys to develop the bond and trust that will ease and speed up the assimilation process. The result: within a very short time, this grey was eating fresh food and playing with toys.  It also became more animated and “outgoing” because of the stimulation of “the flock” she encountered daily.

It is also beneficial for a young grey to be raised among older greys. They learn faster just by watching their seniors.

Although general experiments and practice of flock instinct showed signs of success, we cannot assume that all situations will bear the same results. Sometimes, the sensitivity of the grey towards each other can also cause disharmony.


A puppy can be trained to live with your grey.  However, the Grey, because of his/her age, might not be so tolerant.  They are natural enemies.  So, it just depends on both the bird and the puppy and how they react to each other and how they are trained.  NEVER leave the puppy and bird alone together for any length of time, even if you think at some point they are both compatible.  On the other hand, they might end up being best of buds.  I've seen some parrots ride on the backs of dogs and others playing with one another.  But it just depends on the individual personalities of both of the animals.

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