Insight on why your Grey acts as it does

July 15, 2015 at 3:33am
by Danmcq of

I thought I would post information on wild greys and their social events with the group flock, family flock and as they age from baby to adult. It will help you in understanding why your grey starts changing as it ages, why it contact calls, why it becomes aggressive over “It’s” cage (think tree hole) and lastly, why they are so nervously alert to any change.


Wild African grey parrots are very shy and rarely allow humans to approach them. They are highly social and nest in large groups, although family groups occupy their own nesting tree. They are often observed roosting in large, noisy flocks calling loudly during mornings and evenings and in flight. These flocks are composed of only African grey parrots, unlike other parrots that are often found in mixed flocks. During the day, they break into smaller flocks and fly long distances to forage. They often roost in trees over water and are said to prefer roosting on islands in rivers.

Young birds stay with their family groups for a long period of time, up to several years. They socialize with others of their age in nursery trees, but remain in their family group within the larger flock. Young African grey parrots are cared for by older birds until they are educated enough and old enough to become independent flock members. Young exhibit appeasement behaviors towards older members. As they mature, birds become more aggressive with conspecifics.

African grey parrots in the wild must learn a complex set of skills. They need to learn how to separate desirable food plants from toxic plants, how to defend territory, how to recognize and avoid predators, how to find safe water, and how to rejoin their families when separated. Also, they must learn how to develop role-appropriate behaviors such as competing and defending nest sites and raising offspring. Competition for nest holes during mating season makes the species extremely aggressive.

Because African grey parrots are partial ground feeders, there is a series of behavioral events that occur before landing and safe consumption takes place. Groups of parrots gather at a barren tree until it is completely filled with hundreds of birds that partake in preening, climbing, vocalizing, and socializing. Eventually the birds make their way down to the ground in waves with the entire group never being on the ground at the same time. Once on the ground, they are extremely vigilant, reacting to any movement and/or sound.


Wild African grey parrot flocks follow a daily pattern of vocalizations. Usually the flock is quiet from sunset until the next dawn. At day break, the flock begins to vocalize before setting out to forage at different locations throughout the day. At dusk, upon return to the roosting site, there is a period of vocalization. There are a variety of different types of calls and vocalizations, including alarm calls, contact calls, food begging calls, and agonistic calls.

Contact calls are of particular importance because they serve to identify where other members of the flock are and help promote flock cohesion. Alarm calls indicate varying levels of distress, these calls are particularly loud and of a frequency that carries well in order to warn fellow flock members. Young learn these vocalizations from parents and flock mates, so pet parrots will not learn appropriate wild vocalizations, but will show similar patterns and use of calls.

It has been found that African grey parrots demonstrated complex cognitive competence in understanding both the similarities and dissimilarities among musical note frequencies and were able to master the musical code. It was determined that African grey parrots must isolate a sound from background noise, imitate it, categorize the acoustic stimulus, encode it into long term memory, and monitor the output sound to match it with the internal template, which is what we call calibrating.

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