African Grey Parrot breeding ( Psittacus erithacus ) PART II

January 28th, 2015 | by Tony Silva
African Grey Parrot breeding ( Psittacus erithacus ) PART II
Tony Silva NEWS
Read also the first and third part of this article:

African Grey Parrot breeding ( Psittacus erithacus ), PART I

African Grey Parrot breeding ( Psittacus erithacus ), PART III


…if trade were the only mitigating factor in the disappearance of a species, then a complete ban should be lauded. But stopping the importation of birds into the EU or US is placing a Band-Aid on a deep puncture wound. You may feel that everything will be fine, but in reality you are not addressing the issue at hand. In the case of the African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), the trade in African of dried heads and tail feathers of Red-tailed African Grey for the fetish market, the wild animal meat trade and habitat loss continue unabated. The loss of tropical diversity is beyond comprehension, as detailed in an FAO report on equatorial Africa:


“…the outlook for the regions rainforests is not promising. Many countries have agreed in principle to conventions of biodiversity and forest preservation, but in practice these concepts of sustainable forestry are not enforced. Most governments lack the funds and technical know-how to make these projects a reality, and “paper parks” are common. Funding for most conservation projects comes from foreign sectors and 70-75% of forestry in the region is funded by external resources.

Additionally a population growth rate exceeding 3% annually combined with the poverty of rural peoples, makes it difficult for the government to control local subsistence clearing and hunting. Equally challenging is the tremendous debt obligations facing the governments of these countries. Already terribly poor (16 of the world’s 20 poorest countries are in Africa), by 1996 African countries with tropical rainforest had accumulated a foreign debt over US$177 billion, an almost insurmountable sum considering the low annual GDPs of most member countries. The easiest, most expedient way for such governments to service these debt payments is to sell their forest products and resources.”



(c) Sandy Cole. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


This forest loss is the primary factor in the decline of parrots, including the African Grey Parrot ( Psittacus erithacus ). The problem as detailed in the FAO report and that I have repeatedly witnessed is rife poverty and that the laws established in Brussels, Washington and elsewhere have little actual impact on the ground. Where the birds cannot be exported alive, then they are killed for food or they vanish with the forests, which are cut and burned for subsistence agriculture or erased by foreign conglomerates seeking valuable hardwoods or minerals or some other element to meet the demand from the developed world or to grow soybeans or Oil Palm Elaeeis guinensis, whose oil finds itself into just about every food item we eat. The situation is repeated again and again: the world´s poorest are forced to make changes to their lives to benefit the wealthier, more developed nations.

If financial incentives were given to the poor and those of us living in more developed nations made sacrifices, then a ban in trade would effectively work. But visit any of the offices of those proponents of the ban and you will find that the rooms are air conditioned to a chilling temperature, placing great demand on petroleum exploration and contributing to Greenhouse gases to meet the electrical demand; reports are printed on paper whose pulp could well have been derived from plantations in tropical countries that were once covered in tropical forest; and no one foregoes a hearty lunch, whose beef could well have been grazing on grass covering areas once blanketed in jungle that was slashed and burned or soybeans growing on land that once supported large parrot populations. All of these actions consume the world´s resources and indirectly affect the wild parrot populations, but then as the German conservationist Heinz Seilman succinctly pointed out: It is easy to point one finger, but people forget that there are then three other fingers pointing back.


I am not in favor of trade (except in small numbers for captive breeding) but am concerned about the welfare of the forest and people whose life is affected by our decisions. The sacrifice must be made by the wealthier nations and must trickle down to the people who live with the parrots for the ban in trade to be effective. Any thinking that deviates from this is utopian and will more likely than not go unnoticed in parrot population trends.


When exported, some natives see a benefit. There is then reason to lobby the villages to conserve the birds. But if the birds cannot be sold, then they are seen under a distinctly different light and the need to preserve them or their habitat typically vanishes. The need for food or medicine outweighall other reasons.


Because of poverty and the desperate need for foreign trade currency, one African nation, Cameroon, continued to export birds. They set an export quota for 3000 Red-tailed African Parrots in 2013. Years ago Cameroon´s African Grey Parrots were destined for the US and EU, but with the inception of bans in trade, they have entered markets elsewhere. Most of these birds are destined to become breeders, but a few become pets.




Wild African Grey Parrot ( Psittacus erithacus ) invariably demonstrate a high level of fear; they congregate in the farthest corner of the holding cage and growl. They are frightened and stressed. One growling bird merely sets off a domino effect whereby they all growl. These birds remain shy for quite some time, hiding in their nest when approached. The majority will begin breeding long before they are comfortable enough to remain on the perch while their caretaker feeds them.


The wild African Grey Parrot typically has an internal parasite load, particularly roundworms and tapeworms. They forage on the ground in wet areas, eating algae and also snails. The snails are the intermediate hosts for tapeworms. These snails and also lizards form a small part of the diet. Their primary intakeis the fibrous pericarp of the fruit of the African Oil Palm Elaeeis guinensis. Thefruit ranges in color from dark green to orangish-red and grow in bunches that have a resemblance to a giant bunch of grapes. Ripeness is indicated by the appearance of red. A large bunch can weigh as much as 50 kg (110 lbs). Each fruit contains a hard, oily kernel, but I have never seen Grey Parrots eat the kernel. The fruit is rich in monosaturated and saturated fatty acids, is rich in carotenes (precursors to vitamin A) and the antioxidant tocotrienols (vitamin E). Other seeds, fruits and pods complement the diet.



Rare mutation of African Grey Parrot, (c) Wayne Wheatley



When first trapped, African Grey Parrot ( Psittacus erithacus ) is fed African Oil Palm seeds, which are readily available and can be collected easily. They are soon converted to eating peanuts (called groundnuts in Africa) or corn and later sunflower seed. Once exported, they should be introduced to the best diet possible from the beginning. They will reject all new food initially, but persistence is important. When wild African Grey Parrots were available in the US, I would place two birds per cage regardless of their gender. Providing them with a nest allowed them the opportunity to hide when their cage was being cleaned or serviced.

They were given a medical exam and typically treated for internal parasites and at times bacteria; roundworms and tapeworms are not always visible in routine testing and thus they were prophylactically treated for these. After a month, their food was removed at night. In the morning they received a bowl of fruits and vegetables. After two hours, this food was removed and a parrot seed mix was offered. Often they did not touch the fruits or vegetables for months. I always persisted and results invariably paid dividend. At the time palm oil was not widely available, or it could have been dizzled over the fruits and vegetables to make them more appealing; today it is available in the US and Europe from specialty Brazilian and African food stores.

Palm oil is used for cooking in many countries. In Brazilian stores it is commonly sold as dendê oil. African stores normally sell it as red palm oil. It is reddish orange in color, has a high gel point (meaning that the sterin in it causes it to become like lard except under very warm temperatures) and oxidizes quickly. I recommend storing the oil in the refrigerator and warming the amount desired for feeding. The seeds are also available in many countries. They can become moldy quickly if fresh. I recommend washing them in a vinegar water solution, allowing them to dry and then freezing them. When fresh, they should never be kept in plastic bags on in containers, as condensation will encourage the growth of mold.

If they are fresh, they should be kept in the sun and on a mesh rack to insure air circulation. An alternate to feeding Oil Palm seeds is providing the seeds of ornamental palms. I can obtain both in Florida, but mine prefer the seeds of the Foxtail PalmWoodyetia bifurcata, an ornamental species. They also get whole green coconuts, which they soon open to reach the meat.


palm fruits

palm fruits


In my collection at the time that wild birds were available, they were first acclimated and adapted to eating a balanced diet. Afterwards they were placed in a group for natural pairing. I found that natural produced earlier breeding of African Grey Parrot results than force pairing. These pairs were then placed in a breeding cage. The nests were invariably filled with rotted wood, this to emulate the chewing that they did in the wild to enlarge the cavity for nesting.

The birds then had their morning feed of fruits and vegetables replaced thrice weekly by a mix containing brown rice or whole grain pasta, finely chopped steamed or partly cooked carrot and sweet potato, steamed broccoli, raw peas, fresh or frozen corn and canned tuna. This mix was—and continues to be– fed hot and often incited—and continues to incite– the birdsto rush down to their feeding bowls to eat. The tuna replaces the protein that they consume in the wild in the form of snails. Because of the risk of spoilage, any uneaten food should be removed after two hours.


Author: Tony Silva, to contact visit his facebook page.


Title photo: (c) Dick Daniels. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



  1. Pingback: Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding of African Greys, PART I | Parrots Daily News

  2. Pingback: Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding of African Greys, PART III | Parrots Daily News

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