The African grey parrot feeds on a variety of fruits, seeds and nuts, particularly those of the oil-palm, Elaeis guineensis. It is also known to do damage to maize crops (3) (8). The species can travel considerable distances in search of fruiting trees (3), and may also make seasonal movements out of the driest parts of its range during the dry season (2). The African grey parrot often roosts in large groups, and forms large, noisy flocks, the birds calling to each other with a variety of squawks, whistles, shrieks and screams, both at rest and in flight (7). In addition to its ability to mimic human speech, this parrot has also been found to mimic other bird and mammal calls in the wild (10).
The nest of the African grey parrot is generally a simple cavity, high in a tree (3). Two to three eggs are usually laid, and hatch after an incubation period of between 21 and 30 days, the young leaving the nest around 80 days later (3). Captive African grey parrots may live for up to 50 years (11).
In recent years, research on a captive African grey parrot known as ‘Alex’ has highlighted the impressive intelligence of this species. As well as learning the names of over 50 objects, Alex was able to use English words to identify colours, shapes and quantities up to six, as well as to demonstrate an understanding of concepts such as bigger / smaller, same / different, and absence, and to use words and phrases to make simple requests. Such studies suggest that the intelligence of African grey parrots is comparable to that of marine mammals, apes and even young children (12).