Activity Level:
African Greys have a pretty consistent activity level on a daily basis. There tend to be times during the day for playing, talking, napping, and affection.

  •    Eyes - Clear, bright eyes (no discharge)  
  •    Nares - Dry, clean, open nares
  •    Beak - Smooth beak  
  •    Posture - Standing erect on perch
  •    Body -  Free of lumps and bumps  
  •    Feathers - In order,  smooth, bright without color breaks, transparency or ragged edges  
  •    Respiration - Smooth and even
  •    Feet -  Smooth and soft, not flaking, even reptilian pattern on the feet
  •    Droppings ("poop") - Moist, and consist of dark green or brownish fecal matter with white or off-white urine.
  •    Nails - Of appropriate length

Note: African Grey Parrot people do spend a lot of time looking and talking about their bird's "poop" as this is a good health indicator! Also, keep in mind that the color can change due to what your African Grey has eaten that day.




Sudden listlessness; sleeping when it normally does not; being quiet when it normally isn't; decreased or not eating and/or drinking.

Droppings ("poop") -
Any observable change in urates (white part) or feces lasting more than a day or two. Green, black or yellow dropping - indicates bird is not eating or sick.  Runny/loose droppings - may indicate bacterial/disease problem.  

Perching -
Not perching and going to the bottom of the cage are general signs of your grey not feeling well

Diarrhoea -
Shows up as undigested food, droppings that don't have the three distinct parts (green/brown, white and liquid urine), and weight loss. If you think your grey has diarrhea, contact your vet immediately.

Weight loss -
Your bird feels "light" when you pick it up, keel bone becomes more prominent

Feathers – Abnormal looking feathers including things such as a prolonged molt or continuous presence of pinfeathers; unusual or dull color; broken, bent, picked or chewed feathers; fluffed up feathers all the time.

What you're looking for is "their" sneeze with a possible discharge. Look for stained feathers over the nares or around the face or vent and / or crusty material in or around the nostrils.

Regurgitating / Vomiting
Greys and all birds regurgitate as a sign of "affection" – you're looking for long periods of time which could indicate a crop infection

Signs of respiratory distress can include tail bobbing up and down with each breath and a change in breathing sounds, wheezing or clicking noise when it inhales.

Falling off its perch and huddling at the bottom of cage

Appear dull and / or squinting; redness, swelling or loss of feathers around the eyes.

Scaly, flakiness, baldness or sores on the bottom of the feet

Excessive head bobbing and shaking




Feather destructive behavior, such as feather picking

Respiratory diseases

Oral abscesses

Malnutrition, including hypocalcemia syndrome
Choanal atresia -
A congenital disorder where the back of the nasal passage (choana) is blocked, usually by abnormal bony or soft tissue formed during fetal development.

Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) -
The clinical presentation of this disease varies with the individual as well as in severity of those
symptoms. Often the symptoms include a gastrointestinal component, but many times birds suffering
from this disease will present with neurologic signs as well, or in lieu of digestive anomalies.

Chlamydiosis  -
Also known as psittacosis, is a disease that affects a wide range of bird species. It is transmissible from a
birds to humans. Since the human disease is usually associated with parrots (including parakeets or
budgerigars), physicians often call the infection “parrot fever.”

Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) -
The virus belongs to the family Circoviridae. The virus attacks the feather follicles and the beak and 
claws-growing cells of the bird, causing progressive feather malformation and necrosis. In later stages of
the disease, the feathers develop constrictions in feather shafts, cease development early until
eventually all feather growth stops.

Other bacterial, viral and fungal infections

Many common disease conditions in African grey parrots are the result of malnutrition. Visiting your avian veterinarian for routine health checks will help prevent many of the above diseases and support you in having a long, satisfying relationship with your African grey parrot.




Chronic Depression

Weightloss -
Aspergillosis (fungal disease), bacterial infections / pneumonia, nutritional deficiencies (Hypovitaminosis A), inhaled toxins

Weightloss, Undigested Seed in Droppings: PDS / PDD

Macaw Wasting Disease -
Terminal disease and contagious to other birds. Disease pathogen not thought to be airborne. Birds may show neurological signs (seizures, falling off perches, etc.).

Seizures caused by Hypocalcaemia syndrome associated with low calcium levels in the blood. Supplementing the parrots' diet with calcium and Vitamin D, and providing access to natural light are important factors in preventing this problem. Birds aged 2 to 5 are most commonly affected. Vet's often treat grey parrots suffering from seizures presumptively with intravenous calcium gluconate, as well as with diazepam.

A lot of the health problems associated with low calcium levels can be prevented by providing sufficient natural sunlight to our pets. Even those situated by a window will not benefit from the sun because the window blocks the UVA and UVB rays needed to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health. Birds use sunlight by preening their feathers. The substance on the feathers will undergo a chemical reaction from the sunlight producing Vitamin D3 which the bird ingests with further preening of the feathers. The indoor bird does not have the benefit of this reaction.

The most common health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency are: weakened immune systems / susceptibility to diseases, soft bones, bent keels, splayed legs, abnormal beak development, reproductive problems (egg binding, soft-shell eggs, dying chicks) as well as seizures and, to a lesser extend, Stargazing (twisted back).

In areas where access to natural sunlight is limited (such as in the northern hemisphere during the winter months), full-spectrum lamps can be used to provide UVA and UVB rays.

Vitamin D / Calcium Deficiency can also be a result of a malfunctioning uropygial gland, as the uropygial or oil gland produces vitamin D3 precursors that are spread into the feathers as the birds preen themselves. Upon exposure to ultraviolet light, the precursors will be converted to active D3, which will then be ingested when the birds preen themselves again. Therefore, it is important to also make sure that the gland is working properly.

Feather Picking / Plucking / Mutilation - can be caused by physical and behaviorial problems. The African Grey is a highly intelligent parrot species that predisposes them to boredom potentially leading to behavioral problems, such as feather plucking.

Changes in Feather Coloration -
African Greys with red feathers scattered throughout the plumage are occasionally seen. Such red feathers scattered in areas where you wouldn't expect to see them could be an indication of damaged feather follicles (usually because of feather plucking), medication (for example administration of antibiotics at the time a bird is molting has caused changes in feather coloration - however, this is not a permanent change and subsequent molts produce normal feather coloration).

There is also a good possibility of sickness, malnutrition (please refer to african grey nutrition), liver disease or kidney problems.

Although it is possibly that genetics is involved and that it is a mutation. It is easy enough to differentiate that -- depending on whether an African Grey developed these red feathers over time (which would be an indication of health problems), or whether they were born with it, which would point towards genetics / mutation.

Hyperkeratotic Swellings

Malignant Tumors

Tapeworms and Blood Parasites

Bad Feather / Beak Condition

Missing and Misshapen Feathers -
Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). A deadly, highly contagious (air-borne disease). Only supportive treatment available. No cure.
Toe Deformities (genetic)

Hematuria in association with lead poisoning

Aspergillosis -
Many African species seem to have problems fighting off this fungal disease. Warm, moist environments frequently cause more infections



Believe it or not, biting in an African Grey is not the norm. African Grey parrots in the wild seldom bite each other. So why is it that this seems to be an issue with pet birds? Very simply, it is because of a behavior problem and one that can and should be corrected for the enjoyment (and safety) of both the bird and the bird's owner.

African Grey biting is a learned behavior. We, as the bird owner, need to learn to understand their body language, learn to control our own reactions to the bite (and yes, getting bitten by that beak can hurt!), and learn to teach and encourage our African Grey what is appropriate and acceptable behavior. To be able to do this, we need to understand what can cause an African Grey to bite.


Fear – one of the most common causes of biting is out of fear. The "fight-or-flight" response is a normal reaction used by animals if they are afraid or hurt. Birds out in the wild usually take flight if something startles or scares them. Birds that live with us have clipped wings, and to them flight is not an option, so they may bite if they are afraid or hurt.

Control / Territorial Dominance – your bird may be protecting his territory which could be his cage, his toys, another bird, or the human that he has bonded to.

Hormonal – just like in humans (especially teenagers!) birds experience hormonal changes. During molting periods or breeding season, your African Grey may become irritable, moody and tense which could lead to biting. Be respectful of their moods during these periods and leave your bird alone when they don't want your attention.

Medical - If a bird doesn't feel well, they often want to be left alone, no different than us humans. If your bird starts biting or you see other changes such as eating or playing less, have your bird examined by an avian veterinarian.

Playing - Your bird may occasionally bite while it is playing. This can occur if the bird is overexcited, or unexpectedly grabs some part of you to keep his balance.

Lack of Attention - birds who are ignored and left in their cages for extended periods of time may take their frustration out by biting. Give your bird attention and time out of the cage that it needs and deserves.

Baby Bird Behavior - Just like any other baby, a baby bird is going to explore. During this time it is learning how to use its beak and doesn't realize the strength they possess. It is important during this stage of a young bird's life to set the boundaries and teach them not to bite. Remember it is a baby and does not know what pain its bite can cause, so try not to react by yelling – we're dealing with parrots here and they do love drama – gently but firmly tell them NO and lightly blow in their face. Don't let your baby bird nibble on your fingers, ears, toes as it encourages them to continue to do this throughout their lives; distract them with a foot toy, food, etc. Be consistent with your teachings during this stage of their lives as you would with any other baby so they don't get confused.

Now that you have a better understanding of why your African Grey may bite what do you do? How do you best handle the situation so as not to encourage this behavior?


Make sure you comprehend why your bird is biting. Some of the common causes listed above are common sense so we will not make light of your intelligence and only touch on the ones that we should.

If he is biting out of fear, figure out what made him afraid. While it might not seem logical to you why they're afraid of it, they are. It could be something in their past that they were taught to be afraid of – I once had a rescued bird that was petrified of a broom and would attack whomever had it. Even though we tried to patiently work with him, he never overcame that fear and had to be taken to a different area of the house when we swept the floor.

So once the cause of fear is isolated you have two options:

1. Avoid exposing the bird to it

    If this is not possible, work with the bird by exposing it to it from a long distance where they are not showing fear but can still see the object. Over the course of a few days (in some cases weeks), slowly move closer but stay far enough away where your bird is still calm. Give them positive reinforcement with praise or a treat. They may then learn to associate it with good things, thus lose their fear of it.

2. Correct Control / Territorial Dominance Biting

In your relationship with your African Grey parrot, you should be established as the "head of the flock" and he should already be trained to step up onto your hand when asked to do so. Birds react to facial expressions and praise. So if your parrot is biting very simply you should:

  • Calmly and firmly (not loudly, remember no drama) say "No" and then

  • Give your bird the "evil eye" – meaning a very dirty look and he will know you're not pleased with him

  • Then do what is known as "laddering". This is where you calmly and firmly (yes once again!) tell your bird to "step up" and then have them do this over and over in a row (approx. 3-4 times).

You will be amazed at the difference. What this does is put you back in control and remind your African Grey that you are the "head of the flock", not him. You must be consistent with this technique and if you are, the biting should stop.


First of all, above all things, DO NOT REACT BY YELLING! This is known as the Drama Reaction and birds love drama and yelling. They think it is a fantastic response and are actually fascinated by it so will bite just to get this "reward" from you.

Next, never under any circumstances, use any type of violence with your bird. Do not grab their beak and shake it, don't throw them on the floor or run back to their cage and slam them into it. Even if there is no physical harm done, you have damaged their trust in you, therefore damaging your relationship with the bird.

Also, don't punish the bird by putting it in its cage because by the time you get him there it's pretty much a fact that he's already forgotten what he did and doesn't make the connection between biting you and getting locked up. Of course, by doing this, he can't bite you again, but you haven't taught him anything about NOT biting.

Learn to read your bird's body language – it will tell you how your African Grey is feeling and will help you avoid situations where your Grey may bite. This knowledge will help your bird be what we like to call around our house a "happy bird."




Feather Plucking / Feather Picking is one of the most dreaded and feared conditions for African Grey owners. There is nothing worse than walking out one morning and taking the cover off the cage only to find feathers on the bottom of the cage and a part of your African Grey's body bereft of feathers. So why does this happen? What causes it?

The African Grey Parrot is known to be one of the bird species that is susceptible to feather plucking. The Congo African Grey has a tendency toward feather plucking whereas the Timneh African Grey doesn't seem to. It is thought that this is because the Timneh is more adaptable and has a more stable personality than the Congo. Another thought is that the Timneh has not been as popular as the Congo and until recently wasn't bred in large numbers. So in later years, there should be more accurate data to prove whether this theory is correct.


Feather Plucking / Feather Picking could be a physical illness or a behavioral problem. The first thing to do if your African Grey starts plucking its feathers is to take it to an avian veterinarian to rule out any physical illness.

Physical Illness that could cause African Grey Feather Plucking:

  • Nutritional deficiency – There could possibly be a calcium, vitamin A or fatty acids deficiency. Is your bird on a seed diet, rather than a pellet diet? Some birds can have an allergic-type reaction to some components of seeds or the seeds may be contaminated with mycotoxins. Is your Grey getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet?

  • Bacterial infection – a bacterial infection needs to be ruled out

  • Parasites – the vet will check for internal and external parasites

  • Metal Toxicity – has your bird been checked for zinc or lead poisoning?

  • Environmental factors – weather changes can be a culprit. Is the air too dry? A humidifier might need to be placed in their area. Or is it too wet, so mold spores can set in?

  • Cage – is their cage large enough? Is it clean? Hygienic animals by nature, a dirty, unkempt cage is detrimental to a Grey's mental as well as physical health.

  • Baths / Showers – your Grey should be getting regular baths or showers to keep them clean and healthy. Also expose them to moist air – put them in the bathroom to enjoy the steam while you're taking a shower. No one likes to be itchy and dirty, least of all an African Grey.

  • Fragrances - Room fresheners, candles, perfumes, hair sprays etc, can irritate an African Grey’s skin

Psychological / Behavioral Problems that could cause African Grey Feather Plucking:

An African Grey is a highly intelligent and sensitive bird; therefore, we must take into account that what is causing it to pluck its feathers could be psychological. Much feather plucking in African Greys seem to be behavioral problems.

  • Boredom / Lack of Attention – an African Grey needs lots of attention and interaction with their "flock". Keep them stimulated - teach new songs, words or a game. Make sure to provide your bird with plenty of toys. Remember to rotate and put new toys in their cage and on their play top area. A variety of toys is important too – never underestimate the value of toys! Give them toys to chew on, take apart, put back together, forage; and have different textures, shapes and sizes. Put your African Grey near a window during the day so they can watch the outside world. We have a bird feeder located on a tree right outside our African Grey's window and he spends hours watching and frolicking around on his play top with the birds and squirrels outside.

  • Stress / Changes in Home Life – was the cage moved to a different location? Was there a new addition to the family? Be conscientious and make time for your African Grey to help it through any changes that might have occurred.

  • Lack of Sleep – some African Greys may pluck due to not getting enough sleep. Make sure your bird gets 8-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

  • Emotional Abuse – a single experience which frightened the bird has been known to bring on feather plucking. Make sure you are always around when there is anyone new around your African Grey. Unfortunately, not everyone understands birds and could act inappropriately.


The worst thing as a bird owner that we can do is react to our African Grey feather plucking. Remember what was said earlier about African Greys needing attention? Well, if we react and get freaked out because our bird just calmly plucked out a feather and is waving it at us, we are giving them attention, and negative though it may be, it is attention nonetheless.

Don't yell, cover the cage, or give it any kind of attention when your bird feather picks. The best thing you can do is ignore the behavior, walk away and leave the room.

Feather plucking can start off slow and escalate as time moves forward so it is best to resolve the problem quickly before it becomes a pattern. Nip it in the bud as quickly as possible.

Most of all, take responsibility as a bird owner. Give your African Grey self-confidence – encourage it to explore and be curious. Expose it to change – take it into different rooms in the house, show it different colors and toys, socialize with other people; so it learns change is okay and these things shouldn't make it afraid. A happy bird is a healthy bird and by taking these steps, you are taking the right road toward helping to keep your African Grey from Feather Plucking.


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